- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

TORONTO — With eight-tenths of a second remaining and Washington needing Larry Hughes to nail both free throws to force overtime, the Wizards guard didn’t even notice the 16,121 fans screaming and waiving multi-colored balloons in hopes of distracting him.

“I wasn’t going to miss them. I wasn’t going to miss them,” Hughes said.

He didn’t. Hughes sank both and added two more free throws in overtime on the way to the first triple-double of his career (33 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) as the Wizards downed Toronto 114-109 at Air Canada Centre.

The win gives the Wizards (7-5) their first winning record in November since going 9-5 in 1984-85. It also was their fourth victory on the road this season.

“There is a lot of confidence around here that we are a flat-out better team now,” said Gilbert Arenas, who had 27 points and five assists.

The win comes on the heels of a disappointing overtime loss in Philadelphia on Friday, in which the 76ers’ Allen Iverson stole an inbounds pass in the final seconds and raced in for the game-winning layup.

As evidenced by his play yesterday, Hughes clearly is playing some of the best basketball of his six-year career. In Friday’s loss to Philadelphia, Hughes had 20 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.

“I’m trying to do other things than just score,” Hughes said. “I’m trying to rebound and get my teammates the ball because we have a lot of other guys who can put it in the hole. I’m just really trying to do everything.”

Yesterday’s win made it easy for Hughes to joke about falling one assist shy of posting back-to-back triple-doubles.

“The last game Brendan [Haywood] and Jared [Jeffries] missed two of my assists,” Hughes said. “We talked about it and made sure that [they] got it this time.”

Haywood was quite accommodating yesterday. He matched his season high in points (20) and grabbed 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the year.

And even though his 15 points fell well shy of his team-leading 24.4-point average, Antawn Jamison grabbed 10 rebounds for his team-high sixth double-double.

The Wizards’ earned yesterday’s victory with a strong performance in the extra period. Washington made five of seven shots in overtime while limiting the Raptors to just 4-for-12 shooting.

The Wizards managed to reach overtime by erasing the Raptors’ 97-88 lead with just 2:55 left in regulation. And a huge reason for the comeback was Hughes, who played 52 minutes and was spectacular with a 21-point fourth quarter.

“It looked like we were out of it. It looked like we were spent,” said Wizards assistant coach Mike O’Koren, who filled in for the second straight game with head coach Eddie Jordan out with a blood clot. “Give a lot of credit to Larry who, while we couldn’t make a shot, he got to the rim and got to the line to keep us close.”

The Wizards, winners of four of their last five games, appear to be playing with more confidence these days, a confidence borne out of the realization their offense can keep them in, and win, games.

Which is why when they took a 108-102 lead on Gilbert Arenas’ layup with 2:59 to play in overtime, the Wizards were confident they could give the Raptors just their second home loss of the season.

“We knew it was all on us after we got that six-point lead,” Hughes said. “There was some time on the clock but we had confidence because we still had the lead and we had the ball. It was confidence and it was on us.”

Jalen Rose had 29 points and Vince Carter added 26 points for the Raptors.

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