- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 26, 2005

CHICAGO — The Washington Wizards appeared ready to author yet another spectacular comeback, this time victimizing a Chicago Bulls team that, like the Wizards, is one of the surprises of the season.

But the resurgent Bulls, who recently have turned their home at the United Center into a fortress, weren’t willing to play along, holding off the Wizards in a 97-90 victory before a sold-out arena.

The loss was the sixth straight on the road for the Wizards, who haven’t won a game away from MCI Center since beating the Cleveland Cavaliers at Gund Arena on Jan.24.

“It’s frustrating,” said Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, who scored 19 points but made just seven of 23 field goals. “We do a good job at home but if you want to be successful you have to win on the road. We don’t want the road to be our Achilles’ heel. We have to find a way to get it rolling and have the same type of energy on the road that we do at home. That’s going to be the biggest test for us.”

This was a game in which the Wizards desperately missed the services of shooting guard Larry Hughes, whom the team hopes to have back for tomorrow’s home game against the Sacramento Kings.

Activated before Wednesday’s victory over Memphis, Hughes last played for the Wizards on Jan.15, the night he broke his thumb in a stirring victory over Phoenix. An appearance tomorrow is not a given.

“That’s the plan,” Hughes said of a return against the Kings.

Losing a game to the Bulls (28-24) is no longer the horror it was as recently as the first nine games of this season, when Chicago was winless. With last night’s victory over the Wizards (31-23), Chicago has been particularly strong at United Center, winning 11 of its last 12.

Last night, the Bulls’ bench played a major role and the team made 11 of 25 shots from 3-point range.

While the Wizards got 36 points and seven assists from Gilbert Arenas, little offense came from anywhere else. Center Brendan Haywood scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but aside from the 55 points scored by Arenas and Jamison, Chicago’s bench, led by Ben Gordon’s 20 points, outscored the remaining Wizards 42-35.

The Wizards closed what had been a 15-point second-quarter deficit and eventually took a 60-57 lead in the third. The Bulls, behind Kirk Hinrich’s 26 points, six assists and three steals, opened a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter with just more than seven minutes to play.

But the Wizards rallied and cut it to 90-88 on Jamison’s 3-pointer with one minute left.

However, the Bulls put the game away shortly thereafter as Antonio Davis broke free for an uncontested dunk that put Chicago up 94-89 with 25.9 seconds to play.

The Wizards would score just one more point, on an Arenas free throw, the rest of the way.

“They played us tough but we also played hard too,” said Arenas, who complained that he got fouled on numerous occasions but didn’t get the calls. “It would have been nice if they had given me my 25 free throws. I could have at least had 25 free throws — if we were at home.

“But they made key plays and they got key rebounds,” Arenas said. “They got the best of us.”

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