- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 6, 2005

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Laron Profit has been an afterthought for most of the Washington Wizards’ season — standing up during timeouts, clapping for teammates as they walked off the court, often handing them towels.

But injuries and the team’s recent spotty play have forced coach Eddie Jordan to look for players who can make something happen, and last night Profit came through in a big way. Leaping as high as he could with 3.9 seconds left, he tipped in the game-winner in an 86-84 victory over the expansion Charlotte Bobcats before 15,301 at Charlotte Coliseum.

Profit’s athleticism saved the Wizards from a second embarrassing defeat in as many nights. On Friday, Washington (33-25) lost at home to lowly Golden State (18-40).

“Laron Profit wanted it more on that last possession,” Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. “Those are the situations where you have to make a play. The defense was good, and so was the rotation. Now you have to rebound the ball. Profit was the one that got the basketball.”

Profit, the only member of the Wizards’ bench to score last night, finished with six points, none more important than the tip-in of Juan Dixon’s baseline jumper that ended the Wizards’ six-game losing streak on the road.

However, the news was not all good. Antawn Jamison, who leads all active players with a consecutive-game streak of 385, scored just two points before leaving early in the third quarter to have his right knee examined. Jamison has struggled offensively lately, and there has been speculation he is playing in more pain than he or the team is letting on.

“His knee was sore, too sore to really continue,” Jordan said. “That’s all we know right now.”

The game-winning play developed following a tough defensive stand that ended with Washington’s Brendan Haywood (season-high 22 points, eight rebounds and four blocks) blocking one of three shots by the Bobcats (12-45), who eventually were called for a shot-clock violation.

When play resumed following a Wizards timeout with 27.6 seconds left and the score tied 84-84, Washington began its possession with Larry Hughes trying to make something happen near the top of the key.

But the Bobcats’ defense was stout and Hughes was forced to pass to Dixon, who got off a shot along the baseline that bounced high off the rim. Profit, who has appeared in just 22 games this season, had to decide whether he wanted to get back on defense or try to make a play for the win.

“It was just one of those things where you are caught in the middle. If I go in here and I don’t get it and they throw it over the top, I’m the last guy back,” Profit said. “The coaches told me to go back. But I figured I’m gonna go in here and take a chance at it. No one boxed me out, so I’m just going to go in here and jump as high as I can. I was thinking if I couldn’t get it I could keep it alive for Brendan and Kwame [Brown] to get a tip-in.”

After Profit’s tip went in with 3.1 seconds to play, Charlotte’s Keith Bogans missed a 40-footer as time expired.

Profit’s heroics typified the type of night it was for the Wizards, who recorded their first road victory since beating Cleveland 106-97 on Jan.24.

The Wizards’ Big Three of Jamison, Gilbert Arenas and Hughes struggled on offense. Although Arenas finished with 21 points and Hughes had 19 points and eight rebounds, they combined with Jamison to make just two of 22 shots in the first half. For the game they were 9-for-38.

This necessitated a decent effort from Brown, who delivered season highs in both points (16) and rebounds (12).

“They were a good inside presence,” Hughes said of Haywood and Brown. “They were rebounding the ball. They played well and we needed them to play well.”

The Bobcats received a good effort from guard Jason Hart, who was filling in for injured starting point guard Brevin Knight. Hart finished with 20 points — 18 in the fourth quarter, when he made all seven of his field goal attempts.

The victory set off a on-court mini-celebration by the Wizards that didn’t exactly thrill Bickerstaff.

“He said, ‘Act like you won before,’” said Arenas, who was playing with a sore knee. “He doesn’t realize that we’ve lost six straight on the road. It’s a young team, and we love celebrating wins. This whole month is on the road, and we’re going to have hard-fought games.”

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