- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

Halfway through this season, the Washington Wizards already have surpassed the last one.

With Allen Iverson injured and unable to bail out Philadelphia, the Wizards beat the 76ers 117-107 last night before 17,050 at MCI Center. Washington raced to a 35-20 edge in the fourth quarter to earn its 26th victory of the season.

The Wizards (26-15) have one more win than they did last season with half the 82-game regular-season schedule remaining. Washington’s fourth consecutive win was also its eighth in a row at MCI Center, matching the longest home winning streak since it was opened in December 1997.

Yet the startling improvement hasn’t satisfied the Wizards.

“Our milestone is a lot bigger than that,” coach Eddie Jordan said of the 26 wins. “We set the bar very high. We don’t talk about it so much, but we’ve got some plans in that locker room for something special.”

Most fans probably feel the Wizards, who haven’t made the postseason since 1997, already have done something special. The team has won 11 of its last 13 games and trails only Miami (31-13) in the Eastern Conference.

“Man, we’re hungry,” said Antawn Jamison, who finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists. “We don’t feel like we’ve accomplished anything. We’ve got 11 more games to the All-Star Game, and we just want to go out and get to the All-Star break with a bang. So guys are focused, and guys know what to do.”

Down 98-97 following a dunk by Philadelphia rookie Andre Iguodala, the Wizards closed the game on a 20-9 run.

Gilbert Arenas led the way for the Wizards with 33 points — the third straight game he has surpassed 30 — and matched his season high with nine assists.

“He is one of the best players in the league with what he is doing,” Sixers coach Jim O’Brien said. “His shot, his ability to get to the foul line — he is a phenomenal talent. He has been tearing it up, and he is a very difficult guard for anybody to defend.”

Juan Dixon returned from a two-game absence because of the flu to extend his streak of games scoring in double figures to six. Dixon, seizing the opportunity created by the absence of Larry Hughes, who went on the injured list before the game because of his broken thumb, finished with 22 points and five assists. Fourteen of Dixon’s points came in the fourth quarter.

The last time the Wizards played Philadelphia, Iverson stole a late inbound pass in overtime and won the game with a layup. This time he was on the bench in street clothes after straining his left rotator cuff Monday while collecting 45 points, 11 assists and four steals in a win over Miami.

Forced to play without their perennial All-Star, the Sixers turned to second-year guard Willie Green as a starter, and he responded. Green had 19 points by halftime, including 13 in the first quarter, and finished with a career-high 32 points.

However, with Dixon harassing him in the fourth quarter, Green was just 1-for-6 from the floor and scored four points. Washington forced Philadelphia into 20 turnovers, including seven in the final quarter.

Philadelphia got 17 points from Kenny Thomas and 15 from Kyle Korver.

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