- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

The Indiana Pacers were perfect at the foul line last night, which allowed them to take advantage of the Washington Wizards’ imperfections.

In a 99-93 victory before 13,411 at MCI Center, the Pacers went 26-for-26 on free throws. And while they were flawless at the line — and the Wizards shot just 19-for-31 there — it wasn’t just the free throw shooting that made the difference. Indiana simply outplayed the Wizards in the second half.

The loss ended the Wizards’ nine-game win streak at MCI Center. The Pacers also ended the Wizards’ 10-game home winning streak at home against Eastern Conference opponents, which dated to Dec. 30.

The Wizards, who squandered a 14-point lead for the second game in a row, were outscored 55-40 and outrebounded 30-19 in the second half.

Washington could have won the season series against the Pacers for the first time since 1996-97 and taken any tiebreaker between the teams. Instead, the teams split four meetings.

As it is, the Pacers (29-25) own the fifth playoff position over the Wizards (29-27) with about seven weeks left in the regular season.

“You just hope that it doesn’t come to any type of tiebreaker situation or anything like that,” said Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, who finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Stephen Jackson led the Pacers with 26 points. Peja Stojakovic added 19, and Indiana’s bench also contributed as David Harrison had 12 points and nine rebounds and Fred Jones had 14 points and six rebounds.

The Pacers also got a strong game from former Maryland player Sarunas Jasikevicius, who finished with 14 points and 11 assists while filling in for the injured Anthony Johnson.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan was most irritated with his team’s seeming inability to stop bickering with referees and complaining about calls — right or not — that have gone against them.

In back-to-back losses, that has been the case. In Memphis, Washington’s Gilbert Arenas continued talking about a referee awarding the Grizzlies’ Eddie Jones three free throws on a shot that was determined wrongly to be a 3-point try.

And after last night’s game players still were complaining about the officials.

“We were not competing in the paint, and we are getting distracted a little bit by what’s going on out on the floor, not getting through a little bit of adversity whether you think it’s a bad call or good defense against you,” Jordan said. “But for the most part they just outplayed us, and they deserved to win.”

Arenas led all scorers with 28 points but shot just 8-for-24 from the floor. Caron Butler, who sat out the second half Monday in Memphis with a stomach ailment, finished with just six points on 3-for-14 shooting.

Wizards rookie Andray Blatche stayed home with a stomach virus.

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