- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Although Memphis Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol made the Western Conference All-Star team for the first time, he kept an extremely low profile in the game. But last night he let his performance do the talking in the Grizzlies’ 108-98 victory over the Washington Wizards at FedEx Forum.

Gasol scored a career-high 39 points on 16-for-22 shooting, and his teammates fed off of him. He also pulled down 10 rebounds as the Grizzlies outrebounded the Wizards 38-24.

“They went to Gasol, and we couldn’t contain him,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “He was just a high-level player tonight.”

Unfortunately for the Wizards (29-26), who lost their first game in four since the All-Star break, they wasted some fine performances. Antawn Jamison scored 35 points and made a career-high six 3-pointers. Washington also got 37 points from Gilbert Arenas, who earlier in the day was named Eastern Conference player of the week for the second straight time and third time this season.

But the Wizards, who fell to 9-17 on the road, found themselves in trouble when they were forced to play most of the second half without starting forward Caron Butler, who was forced out by a stomach illness and finished scoreless.

The Wizards also thought they were the victims of some shoddy officiating, especially in the fourth quarter. However, all the sloppy officiating in the world won’t cover up for the fact that they allowed the second-lowest scoring team in the league (89.7 points) to score its highest point total in more than three months.

The Wizards blew a 14-point lead in the second quarter, and the Grizzlies (31-26) made 71 percent of their shots in the second half, when they scored 67 points.

“They came back with a lot more energy in the second half, and we turned the ball over,” Jordan said. “They got the juice. I felt we were distracted with some official calls. We lost our focus, and that was the part of the game I was disappointed in.”

Jordan was referring to the second half of the fourth quarter in particular, when the Grizzlies broke the game open with a 16-6 run.

With 5:07 remaining, Washington’s Michael Ruffin was whistled for a questionable flagrant foul on Gasol, who made both his free throws to tie it 92-92. Then Washington’s Jared Jeffries was called for goaltending on Eddie Jones’ shot. Not long after, the Grizzlies were sitting atop a 10-point lead.

After watching Washington make 54.1 percent of its shots in the first half, former Wizards guard Chucky Atkins said he was not surprised the Wizards made just 37.8 percent (14-for-37) in the second.

“The Wizards can shoot themselves in a game, and they can shoot themselves out of a game,” Atkins said. “At least that’s the way it was when I was there.”

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