- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Washington Wizards, a team that has openly questioned its own desire to play defense, clamped down on the Boston Celtics in overtime to earn a 110-105 victory last night before 14,613 at MCI Center.

The Wizards (4-4) held the Celtics (3-3) without a bucket in overtime until Ricky Davis scored on an alley-oop with 12.8 seconds to play.

Perhaps the best effort of the night came from forward Jared Jeffries, who made his first start of the season a memorable one.

Not only did Jeffries finish with a career-high 15 points and seven rebounds, his defense against Paul Pierce in overtime, when he blocked a shot by the All-Star and drew a crucial offensive foul on Pierce, helped key the win.

“Those are the type of plays I want to make,” Jeffries said. “I want to be a starter in this league, and that is the way I have to play when I get the opportunity.”

Though Pierce finished with a season-high 37 points, he was just 8-for-25 from the field. Pierce did most of his damage from the free throw line, where he converted 18 of 20.

“We just told [Jeffries] to stay in tune with Pierce, make him a driver, don’t back up and let him get his rhythm,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We told him if you get in to him, we’ll give you help and we did. So he felt very confident.”

While Jeffries’ performance was big, it did not stand alone. Larry Hughes stuffed the stats sheet with 21 points, seven assists and six steals, and his 12 rebounds fell one short of his career high.

Antawn Jamison, who told his teammates during huddles in the fourth quarter “we are going to win this game,” finished with a team-high 27 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Gilbert Arenas added 25 points, seven assists and three steals.

Had the Wizards not played their worst quarter of basketball all season in the third quarter, they wouldn’t have had to play an extra period.

The Wizards led by 17 late in the second quarter, but Jordan, Jamison and Arenas all picked up technical fouls in the third quarter while Washington was outscored 42-17. They committed nine of their 17 turnovers in the period as their comfortable advantage morphed into an 84-72 Boston lead.

“We lost our composure,” Hughes said. “We had to take a step back and slow down. They made a run, and we started scrambling on both ends. We knew there were 15 minutes left in the game and that we had to play defense and score.”

Which is what the Wizards did.

Boston, which shot a season-low 40.2 percent from the field, made just five of 20 shots in the fourth as the Wizards outscored them 28-16. Washington led 100-98 until Jamison fouled Pierce, who sank a pair of free throws with 58 seconds left. Although both teams had opportunities to win the game in regulation after that, neither could.

After struggling for defensive consistency from game to game — and even period to period — the Wizards showed signs of maturation afterward, blaming themselves for the third-quarter meltdown.

“If we hold them to even 30 points in the third quarter, we win this game by a lot more,” Jeffries said. “But we still had time to lock in in the fourth and do it.”

The Wizards scored a season-best 55 points in the first half, but defense also played a crucial role in helping the Wizards to their 17-point lead late in the half.

Washington held Boston, one of the better shooting teams in the league thus far, to just 18 points on 5-for-19 shooting in the second quarter. Washington led 55-38 with just over a minute to play in the half.

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