- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 4, 2004

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Even before it was over, Antawn Jamison and Juan Dixon were limping around the court, trying to relieve aching muscles stretched to the limit.

But the pain they felt in their cramping calves was eased by the fact the Wizards opened the season with a 103-91 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies even though they had only eight players available.

Jamison played 45 of a possible 48 minutes and led the Wizards with a game-high 34 points, while Dixon logged 43 minutes to finish with 28 points.

With a little less than a minute to play, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan leaned over the scorer’s table and said to no one in particular, “Pinch me, I’m dreaming.”

No one would have been surprised if the Wizards had lost by a substantial margin. After all, the Grizzlies were opening their sparkling new FedEx Forum before a sellout crowd of 18,119.

And while the Wizards were coming off a season in which they won just 25 games, Memphis had its best season in franchise history last year by winning 50 games, 22 more than the previous campaign.

At one point in the fourth quarter, Jamison — acquired by the Wizards from Dallas in a trade involving Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner — had to be helped from the court because of the cramps.

He rode a stationary bike and returned shortly thereafter to help secure the win.

“We knew we were short-handed, and we knew that most people didn’t give us a chance to win,” Jamison said after he teamed with Dixon and Jarvis Hayes (20 points) to become the first trio of Washington players to score at least 20 points since March 27. “But the most important thing is that we believed we could come in and make it a game. Guys knew that they had to step up. For us to accomplish what we did tonight shows how we really believe in each other.”

Said Dixon, who added five steals and four assists: “It feels good to get this win when everybody counted us out.”

Injuries and suspensions to starters Brendan Haywood, Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes and reserve Anthony Peeler reduced the Wizards’ roster. Among the players expected to be in the starting lineup when the team was being assembled over the summer, only Jamison was available.

“We’re waiting for the cavalry to arrive tomorrow,” Jordan said. “We’re happy about tonight. They’re a quality coaching staff, and they’re a quality team. [The victory is] going to hit me more tomorrow morning.”

Bonzi Wells led Memphis with 19 points. Pau Gasol finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

The Wizards got contributions large and small. Michael Ruffin, who started at center, played 39 minutes, blocked a career-high seven shots, dealt four assists and grabbed 11 rebounds. Defensively, the Wizards limited the Grizzlies to just 39 points in the second half.

After falling behind by 19 points midway through the second quarter, the Wizards rallied to outscore the Grizzlies 55-21 to the end of the third quarter.

Dixon gave the Wizards their largest lead of the night when he drilled a 3-pointer to make it 79-63 early in the fourth.

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