- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

Antawn Jamison validated his selection to his first All-Star Game by torching the San Antonio Spurs for a season-high 35 points and 11 rebounds last night in the Washington Wizards’ 95-87 victory at MCI Center.

Jamison, named to the Eastern Conference team as a reserve on Tuesday, scored 19 points after halftime — including 14 in the fourth quarter when he was 5-for-6 from the floor — to lead the Wizards (29-19).

The Wizards caught a huge break last night, considering the Spurs (39-11) played without standout power forward Tim Duncan, who missed his second straight game after spraining his right ankle during practice on Monday.

“We knew we were going to have a quality opponent even without Tim Duncan,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “I think our defensive mind-set that was set up in the last six minutes of the second quarter was a crucial turning point in getting control of the game and knowing that we can win this game and not just compete down to the end.”

Trailing by 11 points approximately three minutes into the second quarter following a hook shot by the Spurs’ Robert Horry, the Wizards managed to erase the lead en route to holding San Antonio to 33.3 percent shooting for the period.

And for the rest of the night, San Antonio never looked like the team that handed the Wizards a 28-point whipping and held them to a season-low 73 points in Washington’s first game after Hughes broke his right thumb. The Wizards improved to 7-6 without the guard.

“We had it in the back of our heads, but we’re not a team that’s about revenge,” Jamison said. “Every time we are out there on the court we want to improve as a team, get better and do the things that we do. What happened a couple of weeks ago played a factor but we just wanted to go out and get a win.”

The Wizards went ahead on Gilbert Arenas’ layup with 6:16 left in the third quarter and never trailed again. San Antonio’s last-gasp chance to win slipped away when Malik Rose was called for a charge with 18.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the Spurs trailing 90-84.

Washington’s Juan Dixon (10 points, six rebounds) sank a pair of free throws with 18.5 to play.

Arenas, who like Jamison is a first-time All-Star, was 0-for-12 against the Spurs in the last meeting. He struggled with his shooting touch again last night, going 9-for-28 from the floor to finish with 24 points, including eight in the fourth quarter.

“Down the stretch Arenas and Antawn showed why they were selected to the All-Star team,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “They did a great job. I thought we hung in pretty well but we had a really poor shooting night. We had the kind of shooting night they had when they came to San Antonio.”

Wizards center Brendan Haywood, finding room to operate with Duncan sidelined, finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two of the team’s 10 blocks. Both Michael Ruffin (eight rebounds, three blocks) and Etan Thomas (three blocks) provided a physical presence inside.

The victory came in front of the sixth sellout (20,173) at MCI Center this season.

And don’t look now, but MCI Center is starting to become one of the more unfriendly arenas in the league for opposing teams. Only the Spurs (20-1) and Miami (20-5) have better home records than the Wizards (19-7), winners of 11 of their last 13 at home.

“When your crowd is supporting you it’s much easier to actually play basketball,” Arenas said. “When they are out there relaxing, you’re relaxing. When they are fired up you don’t want to disappoint them. Last year a good team came in and the support was maybe 51-49 for the other team. Not now.”

The Wizards’ win snapped the Spurs’ five-game winning streak and ended Washington’s four-game losing streak against San Antonio. In addition, the Wizards now have won 10 games this season in which they have trailed by 10 points or more.

The Spurs were led by Tony Parker’s 22 points and nine assists. Rose added 19 points and seven rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

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