- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2006

DALLAS — The Washington Wizards were trying to do something that no team has been able to accomplish in 2006: beat the Dallas Mavericks on their home floor. With a sub-par game from their lone All-Star, they couldn’t quite pull off the feat.

Dallas won 103-97 at American Airlines Center as it held guard Gilbert Arenas to 12 points on 4-for-22 shooting. The Wizards lost for just the sixth time in their last 19 heading into the All-Star break.

Caron Butler led the Wizards (26-25) with 27 points and 11 rebounds, and Antawn Jamison finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

The Mavericks (41-11) won for the 15th time in 16 games and remained unbeaten in 11 home games this season against the Eastern Conference. With San Antonio’s loss to Philadelphia, Dallas has the best record in the West at the break.

Josh Howard scored 26 points and Dirk Nowitzki 25 for Dallas, which handed the Wizards their fourth straight road loss.

Arenas was called for an offensive foul with 1:51 to play and his team trailing 97-94. But the Mavericks failed to score on their next possession, and at the other end Butler put in a running jumper along the baseline that pulled the Wizards within one point and forced the Mavericks to call a timeout with 59.2 seconds remaining.

When play resumed the Mavericks, who had just nine seconds left on the shot clock, got a layup from center Eric Dampier.

Arenas missed a 21-footer at the other end, preceding Jason Terry’s layup with 17.8 seconds left.

The Wizards will enter the break above .500 for a second year in a row, marking the first time that has happened since 1998.

Of their 31 games left, 17 of them are on the road. Twelve of their final 16 games are away from MCI Center, where Washington will resume play Tuesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Mavericks were no doubt inspired by the news delivered over the public-address system that Philadelphia had beaten San Antonio, which had been tied with Dallas in the Southwest Division entering play last night.

When these teams met last season in a pair of games won by the Mavericks, there was little defense played, especially by the Wizards, who gave up an average of 129 points and allowed the Mavericks to make 55 percent of their field goals.

The second game was particularly bad for the Wizards, who lost 137-120.

But after three quarters with the Mavericks ahead by four points and neither team making better than 45 percent of its field goals it was clear that last night would look more like a typical NBA game.

Down by 12 points midway through the third, the Wizards climbed back into the game with 19-10 run. They trailed 82-79 following a layup by Dallas’ Howard with just under nine minutes to play.

Shortly thereafter Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, incensed that a foul was not called as Arenas drove to the basket with 6:54 to play, picked up a technical foul and had to be restrained by his assistants from charging the court.

A much better defensive team this year than they have been in years past, the Mavericks seemed intent on making sure Arenas didn’t beat them by himself in the first half.

Terry limited Arenas to just 2-for-11 from the field and four points by halftime.

That left the bulk of the scoring load on Jamison and Butler, who combined to score 27 of the Wizards’ 49 first-half points.

The Mavericks used an 8-2 run midway through the third quarter to expand a 64-58 margin to 72-60, forcing Washington to call a timeout and regroup. The Wizards closed the quarter by outscoring Dallas 12-4 to reduce the lead to 76-72.

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