- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan — his team nearing the end of a stretch with eight of nine road games — wanted his charges to play with energy and passion in last night’s brief home stop at Verizon Center.

What he got was a comfortable 105-90 win against the New York Knicks. But because the Knicks are so bad, it’s hard to tell whether the Wizards’ play had much to do with it.

The Wizards (38-35) toyed with the Knicks (19-54) all night long, leading by as many as 31 points in the second half.

The best news to come out of the game for the Wizards — other than the fact that Jordan was able to rest some of his key players — was that Washington’s victory coupled with Milwaukee’s loss at Miami extended the Wizards’ lead over the Bucks to 11/2 games in the race for the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“Our pre-game speech was that the top four teams have clinched, we’re the next team in line. But the top four teams did significant things to clinch,” Jordan said. “Now it’s our turn.”

Gilbert Arenas had 13 points and was one of six Wizards players to score in double figures. He didn’t look for his shot, but he found his teammates and plenty of errant Knicks passes, finishing the game with 13 assists and six steals — both season highs.

Jordan was somewhat concerned that his players might not carry over the intensity that they exhibited on the road trip they just completed, when they went 3-3 against good competition.

“We’re next in line and we have to play our way into it because no one is going to give it to us,” Arenas said.

Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 18 points each. Etan Thomas and Jared Jeffries both finished with 13, and reserve Antonio Daniels had 12.

The last of the Wizards starters were out of the game with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter.

The Wizards led 61-39 at halftime, shooting almost 60 percent from the field. The Knicks had 16 turnovers at the half and matched a season high with 28 by game’s end.

Reserve center Brendan Haywood eased himself back into lineup after missing three games with lower back spasms. He scored nine points in 20 minutes.

Jackie Butler scored a game-high 28 points for the Knicks, who lost their ninth straight.

New York was awful from start to finish.

“It got worse, if that’s possible,” Knicks coach Larry Brown said of his team’s progressively worsening play last night. “That was way up there with one of the worst that we’ve been around. You have to respect what they did. They played hard. They just came off a tough road trip and they gotta go back out and play some tough games. And they came in with so much more energy. It was like the varsity against the JV.”

The Wizards go back on the road today with at game at Boston and Friday at Atlanta. They come back home Saturday to face the Heat, who have won 15 straight against Washington. Last night was the Wizards’ first home game since March 21, when they lost to the New Jersey Nets.

The Knicks were the right prescription for a team coming off a road trip. They are a very bad basketball team and at this point, even the addition of Brown — at $10 million a season — has done nothing to rescue this franchise and its bloated $123 million payroll.

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