- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

The Washington Wizards, motivated by the Jekyll and Hyde performance that hurt them so much in Toronto 24 hours earlier, returned to MCI Center last night and ended their season-high, four-game losing streak with an easy 112-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Point guard Gilbert Arenas had the type of night that demonstrates why he is receiving All-Star consideration, finishing with game highs in points (31), assists (nine) and steals (six). He also had six rebounds for the Wizards (27-19), who led by 25 points at halftime and by 28 in the third quarter.

“I’m happy for our guys because we’ve been through some tough times,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said of the losing streak. “We just had to keep it up for 48 minutes instead of 43 or 42 minutes.”

The Wizards, who improved to 15-1 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 points, also got key contributions from others — unlike in Friday night’s game in Toronto, when they blew a 22-point lead after Arenas was ejected in the third quarter.

Reserve center Etan Thomas finished with a career-high 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds.

“We need that,” Jordan said, clearly happy with Thomas’ play. “We need some production from the bench. His numbers should be close to a double-double, or maybe even a little bit more.”

Thomas missed the first 32 games this season after suffering a severely strained abdomen in training camp. But last night, facing the team that offered him a $39million contract that the Wizards matched, Thomas looked healthy around the basket as he pounded home power dunks and worked tirelessly for his rebounds.

“After the game [Friday night in Toronto], the ride back home was horrible,” Thomas said. “It was a game we definitely should have won. But that’s the thing about the NBA: No one is going to feel sorry for you.

“As for me, I’m still trying to get my rhythm and find my place on the team,” Thomas said. “Brendan [Haywood] is playing well, Michael [Ruffin] is playing well, so I’ve just got to fight to get on the floor and get my minutes. Either way it feels good to contribute.”

This was the first time Thomas had scored in double figures since he notched 16 against New Orleans on April16. Jarvis Hayes finished with 15 points, and Haywood contributed 13 points and seven rebounds.

With the Wizards getting so many contributions from others, Jordan had a chance to rest key players like Antawn Jamison, who played 38 minutes and finished with nine points and five rebounds.

“He carried a lot of minutes [Friday] night,” Jordan said. “Tonight he was probably a little bit leg-weary, and I know he probably wasn’t at 100 percent tonight. When we were up 20, he said to me, ‘If you want to take me out, you can take me out.’”

As he had Friday night in Toronto, Arenas found his range early. He was 5-for-7 from the field and scored 14 points in the first quarter, just five fewer than the Bucks.

Pretty much doing what he wanted to against the Bucks’ guards, Arenas even converted a four-point play with 5:29 left in the quarter, sinking a 26-footer and making a free throw.

Generating offense really isn’t a problem for the Wizards. Their shortcomings have come at the other end, but last night they played tough defense from the start. The Wizards limited the Bucks to just 19 points in the first quarter on 7-for-18 shooting while outscoring Milwaukee by 13 points.

For the rest of the first half, the Wizards’ lead never dwindled below 12 points.

After Milwaukee’s Mike James sank a 17-footer that pulled his team within 51-34, the Wizards responded with an 11-3 run to take a 62-37 lead with just more than a minute left in the first half.

Michael Redd led the Bucks with 26 points. The Bucks also got 22 points from James in a reserve role.


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