- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 5, 2005

NEW YORK — Everywhere you looked last night in Madison Square Garden — where a championship has not been won in 32 years — there were signs of the anticipated Larry Brown renaissance.

From the orange hats that the fans of the so-called basketball “capital of the world” were given as they entered the building to the celebrity faces — Chris Rock, Donald Trump and Howard Stern, to name a few — that dotted the sidelines, it was clear that something is now expected of the Knicks and Brown, regarded by many as the league’s best coach.

None of the pageantry, however, can make up for the reality that Brown is forced to play guys named Channing Frye and Matt Barnes when games are being decided late; that they don’t shoot free throws very well; and that they lack the requisite discipline of his previous teams, most recently the Detroit Pistons.

That all added up to an 86-75 victory for the Washington Wizards, who got 27 points from Gilbert Arenas and 20 from Antawn Jamison. Despite being out-rebounded by a staggering 59-35 margin, they’ll have a chance to go to 3-0 tonight in their home opener against Orlando.

The Wizards were clearly happy with the victory. However, they appeared to be aware of the fact that much work lies ahead.

“Last year we started out 2-0 and then we came home and lost,” said Jamison, who struggled with his shooting (8-for-22) but was 4-for-4 in the fourth quarter. “And we’ve still got some things that we have to correct, like our rebounding. That’s worrying me too. Tomorrow I will be surprised if we get out-rebounded.”

Another thing the Wizards will want to correct that haunted them last year was the inability to put teams away. The Knicks (0-2) were down 19 points in the first quarter, a period in which the Wizards shot 70 percent from the floor.

“We can’t do a lot of things that we did last year because we don’t have Larry [Hughes, a guard who signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers],” said Arenas, who might have had a bigger night had a third foul not forced him to miss nine minutes of the second quarter. “We could turn it on and off more. But this year we’ve got more balance. We’re not going to get in that habit again. We’ll correct it and be fine.”

As bad as the Knicks were, those corrections weren’t really necessary last night. Although they recovered from the 19-point deficit and took a brief 65-64 lead early in the fourth quarter, their discombobulated play late in the game made the Wizards’ job a little less complicated.

Led by Stephon Marbury’s 19 points, New York was only capable of 14 points in the fourth quarter, when it made just five of 16 shots on the way to a 27-for-82 night (32.9 percent), made just four of 10 free throws and turned the ball over six times.

“They got every hustle play,” Knicks’ reserve guard Jamal Crawford said. “They gave themselves second chances to give themselves field goals.”

Arenas and Jamison were not the only Wizards who played well. Center Brendan Haywood had his second strong game in a row, finishing with 11 points and four blocks. Michael Ruffin was big off the bench too, finishing with five points and nine rebounds.

“That’s why I was so glad when we brought him back,” Jamison said of Ruffin, whom the Wizards re-signed over the summer. “He’s the one guy who brings it like that every night. He does all the small things that we need him to do.”

The Wizards found out right before the game that they would be without Caron Butler, who played a huge role with 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench in the Wizards’ season-opening victory at Toronto. The hope last night was that he would be ready to go by Wednesday night at home against the Los Angeles Clippers.

After a rousing pregame ovation for the Knicks — highlighted by the applause for Brown — the Knicks proceeded to play a disjointed and defenseless first quarter.

That enabled the Wizards to score 20 points in the paint in establishing their 19-point lead (27-8).

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