- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

After a hard-fought game in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday night, Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan made no secret that he wanted his role players to take some pressure off his starters, particularly Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.

That didn’t happen last night at Verizon Center in another game against the Bobcats. All three played at least 38 minutes as the Wizards swept the home-and-home series 107-99. Unlike the tight game in Charlotte the night before, however, the Wizards led from the start before a crowd of 13,841.

Arenas, who played 38 minutes, made 11 of 17 field goals for a game-high 34 points for his 32nd game with at least 30 points this season. Jamison played 45 minutes and finished with his 32nd double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

And Butler, on top of celebrating his 26th birthday, finished with 18 points in 44 minutes.

Whenever the Bobcats made a push — if that is what a surge by a team that made just 40 percent of its shots can be called — the Wizards (33-30) had an answer.

The last came from Arenas in the form of a 3-pointer with 2:40 left in the game that put the Wizards comfortably ahead 103-92.

With their third straight win, the Wizards went ahead of Indiana (32-30), which fell at home to Denver, to take the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference.

Still, Jordan saw some areas in which he felt the team needs to improve. For instance, Washington jumped out to a huge lead in the first quarter but didn’t put the Bobcats (18-48) away. And they also committed a season-high 23 turnovers.

“It was a good win, but I’m disappointed in a lot of things,” Jordan said. “We’re playing for something, and they are playing for nothing outside of pride. So they are a hard team to play.”

After seeing Arenas, Jamison and Butler score 166 points in two nights against his Bobcats — they combined for 94 the night before — Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff had high praise for the Wizards.

“They have three guys that if you get into the playoffs, and there is familiarity, can go and score,” said Bickerstaff, who coached the Washington Bullets into the playoffs in 1997. “That is what the playoffs are all about. They take everything away from you, but you can’t take away what they do offensively. This is what the playoffs are all about — guys who can score and familiarity.”

The Wizards placed five players in double figures and made 47.3 percent of their field goals. Jared Jeffries finished with 14 points, and Antonio Daniels added 13. Aside from Daniels, only Calvin Booth, who had two points, scored off the Wizards’ bench.

Jumaine Jones led the Bobcats with 25 points. Reserve Bernard Robinson, who played at Dunbar High School in the District, scored 21 points.

The Bobcats were without leading scorer Gerald Wallace, who was ruled out of last night’s game just before tip with a calf injury.

Winners of just six road games this season, the Bobcats have long since given up hope for this season and are waiting for this summer’s draft lottery.

Tuesday night, they found out they would be without injured power forward Emeka Okafor for the remainder of the season.

The Bobcats also thought they may have lost starting rookie guard Raymond Felton, but he played one night after catching an ugly elbow from Wizards center Etan Thomas late in the fourth quarter of Washington’s 119-114 win Tuesday.

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