- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic took out their frustrations from a miserable season on the Washington Wizards last night.

Reeling from a rash of injuries, suspensions and, most agonizing, losses in seven of their last eight games, the Magic ended the Wizards’ four-game winning streak with a 106-98 win in front of 13,798 at TD Waterhouse Centre.

The loss prevented the Wizards (17-20), who were led by Antawn Jamison’s 30 points and 12 rebounds, from earning what would have been a season-high third-straight road victory.

Gilbert Arenas, the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer who began the game averaging 28.6 points, struggled and finished with 21. After beginning the game by making three of five shots, he made just two of 15 the rest of the way.

“If I go 2-for-15, it’s going to be hard for us to win,” Arenas said. “And if you look at it, they got all the momentum in the second half. Everything just shifted in the second half.”

The Magic (14-22) outscored the Wizards 62-47 in the second half. That was a byproduct of their superior shooting after halftime; they made a precipitous jump from 16-for-36 (44.4) to 20-for-35 (57.1) in the second.

“They made some shots,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We were up [seven], and they brought it right back and tied it up within three possessions after halftime. And we just never really responded at a high level. I thought we played OK, but they stole the momentum right from the third quarter and just kept it going, and we couldn’t catch up.”

Orlando has had trouble catching up itself lately.

The Magic have spent most of the season without Grant Hill, who again is losing the battle against his body.

Former Maryland star Steve Francis returned from a two-game suspension last night for cursing out coach Brian Hill after he refused to go back into a blowout by Seattle. And in that same game, guard Keyon Dooling, the team’s biggest free agent acquisition over the summer, was suspended for five games for his role in an altercation with the SuperSonics’ Ray Allen.

Those problems weren’t apparent in the second half. The Magic quickly erased what had been a 51-44 Washington halftime lead with a 10-2 run to start the third.

That was mostly because of the play of Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson. Nelson scored 13 of his 22 points in the third quarter, when the Magic outscored the Wizards 29-18 to build a 73-69 lead heading into the final period.

“It shows that they have a future point guard who can create for others, make baskets and is not afraid to take shots,” Arenas said of Nelson, who was starting in place of Francis.

Orlando placed six players in double figures, including DeShawn Stevenson with 19. The Magic made 50.7 percent of their field goals compared to 40 percent for the Wizards.

Wizards reserve guard Antonio Daniels continued his string of good play, finishing a point shy of his season high with 17.

The sequence most indicative of the night came late in the fourth quarter.

After Jamison had his shot blocked by unathletic reserve Pat Garrity, the Magic responded with a 15-footer from Hedo Turkoglu and a putback by Nelson for a 94-85 lead with 2:35 to play, forcing the Wizards to call a timeout.

Note — Reserve center Etan Thomas returned to Washington after he learned his grandmother, Constance Bodger, had died. Thomas is expected to rejoin the team when it plays host to New Orleans/Oklahoma City tomorrow.

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