- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sometimes the Washington Wizards’ Big Three need big help. Last night they got it from the smallest guy in uniform.

Former Maryland standout Juan Dixon has to be ready whenever coach Eddie Jordan calls on him, and this time he delivered in fine fashion. The 6-foot-3 reserve guard sparked a late 16-0 run and finished with 26 points as the Wizards rallied to defeat the Phoenix Suns 108-103 before 20,173 at sold-out MCI Center.

And so the Wizards’ startling season continued. At 22-13, they have won seven straight, their longest streak since a run of nine in December 2001.

Dixon had 13 points in the fourth quarter, when the Wizards outscored Phoenix 36-25. At one point during that run, when the Suns looked like a beaten team and called a late timeout, Dixon let out a scream both primal and jubilant.

“Emotional, man,” said Dixon, who also had four steals. “There are times when you are on the bench the whole game and you are rooting your teammates on, but you are not really a part of it. Getting the chance to be a part of it is a lot of fun. And I’m feeling it right now.”

Dixon’s big effort was needed as Gilbert Arenas (26 points), Larry Hughes (22 points) and Antawn Jamison (17 points, seven rebounds) shot a collective 21-for-61 from the field.

The Wizards’ decisive run began with them trailing 93-84 with 6:19 left in the game and ended when Jamison sank a 3-pointer that gave Washington a 100-93 advantage with 3:14 left.

During that span, Dixon molded the outcome as much as anyone else. If he wasn’t swiping the ball, he was drilling a long jumper or feeding the streaking Hughes for a fast-break dunk.

“That’s what Juan does,” Arenas said. “When we are struggling, he is not scared to step up for us. He’s done it before, and he’ll probably do it again.”

Jordan, recognizing his best players were not having a good shooting night, said he had no fear turning the ball over to Dixon at crucial moments.

“He is in a comfort zone knowing that he is our third guard,” Jordan said. “And he’s earned it. When he sees the guys out there struggling and not making shots out there, he has a green light to look for his scoring opportunities.”

The Suns (31-7) have lost three games in a row after their dazzling start. Last night they were without starting point guard Steve Nash (deep thigh bruise), and it showed. Nash is averaging 10.9 assists. Replacement Leandro Barbosa didn’t have a single one, and the team had just 13.

Amare Stoudamire led the Suns with 26 points but was just 3-for-12 from the field in the second half. Quentin Richardson added 25 points and Joe Johnson 23.

The only negative note for the hot Wizards was that Hughes might have suffered a thumb injury, the severity of which was uncertain. Hughes, who tied his career high with 13 rebounds, had his right thumb X-rayed after the game, and the results will be available today.

Phoenix, which never led by more than four points in the first half, used a 13-3 run in the third quarter to move ahead 72-62 with just under five minutes to play in the third.

The Wizards cut the deficit to nine points at the start of the fourth quarter before Dixon — who had 11 huge points in the fourth in the Wizards’ win against Milwaukee on Friday night — again took over.

The game was tied 21-21 after one quarter, with Dixon one of three Wizards to score seven points. Then he hit a 12-footer with about seven minutes remaining in the half to give the Wizards a 39-30 lead.

After Johnson tied it at 50-50 with a pair of free throws, Hughes’ dunk down the middle of the lane on Stoudamire resulted in a technical on Hughes for taunting.

Not to be outdone, Stoudamire closed the scoring with a one-handed putback slam that didn’t draw a technical but was accompanied by taunting as well.



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