- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY — Larry Hughes and Gilbert Arenas helped the Washington Wizards even their record on this Western Conference trip last night with an 85-84 win over the struggling Utah Jazz last night in front of 19,936 at Delta Center.

Hughes secured the win with a late jumper, and the Wizards (37-29) held on as a last-ditch fast break by the Jazz failed to produce a win.

Arenas (game-high 29 points) and Hughes (25) combined to take 44 of the Wizards’ 66 field goal attempts in the win, the Wizards first at Utah since Nov. 3, 1997.

The win improved the Wizards’ road record against the Western Conference to 4-8. More importantly, they picked up a two-game lead over Cleveland and Chicago for fourth place in the Eastern Conference as they improved to 1-1 on the current road trip.

“You always want to win the first one on the West Coast, and unfortunately we didn’t get it,” Arenas said. “We got one tonight. We’ve got a Clippers team tomorrow that is going to be playing hard. We have to come out and play every game like it’s our last because this is where our season is at.”

Kwame Brown finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for the Wizards in a game that wouldn’t have gone down to the wire had the Wizards done better than their 26-for-37 performance at the free throw line. It was just the Wizards’ third win in their last 13 games.

Utah was led by Matt Harpring’s 18 points.

The Wizards got the victory in a flurry late in the game. Hughes gave the Wizards an 85-84 lead when he sank a long jumper with 46.4 seconds left.

The Jazz failed to convert at the other end, but as Hughes prepared to make a move with less than 10 seconds to play, Utah guard Keith McLeod stole the ball and raced up court for a layup, which he failed to convert as time ran out.

The Jazz lost perhaps their best player early in the game when forward Andrei Kirilenko broke his left wrist, ending his season. Kirilenko was hurt when he was called for charging into Brown with just more than 10 minutes to play. About a minute later, Kirilenko, averaging 16.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks a game, left the game for X-rays that delivered the bad news.

The Wizards defeated the Jazz six days ago on a pair of Arenas free throws, giving them a much-needed win over a team that was in the process of losing nine straight games.

Arenas carried the Wizards to a first-quarter lead when he scored 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Arenas’ hot shooting keyed the Wizards, who made 56.3 percent of their shots in the quarter, to a 21-16 advantage.

Arenas cooled in the second, taking just two shots and scoring only three points. But with Arenas not being as aggressive, Hughes stepped in.

Hughes connected on four of seven shots in the second, including 2-for-3 from behind the 3-point arc, to score 10 points. The Wizards took their largest lead of the first half at 43-35 when Brown converted a three-point play with 3:16 left in the half.

That lead grew to 60-51 with 5:13 left in the third quarter when Arenas sank a pair of free throws. However, the Wizards scored only two more buckets the rest of the quarter, a hoop from Brown and a 3-pointer from Hughes. Utah took advantage, outscoring the Wizards 15-6 the rest of the period to tie it at 66-66 on Raja Bell’s 23-foot jumper to end the third.

If there has been a hard luck team in the NBA this season, it is the Jazz. Earlier in the year, they lost Kirilenko to a sprained right knee that forced him out for 26 games. Utah has been without leading scorer Carlos Boozer (17.0) since he was placed on the injured list with a sprained right foot March 2.

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