- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Washington Wizards were hoping last night’s game with the New Jersey Nets could be a momentum builder heading into their two-week road trip that begins tomorrow.

Instead, the Wizards gave up 41 points in the fourth quarter — the most they have given up in any quarter this season — on their way to a 112-100 loss to the Nets at Verizon Center.

The Wizards (34-32) now have 16 games left to determine their playoff fate. Starting with tomorrow’s game at Utah, the Wizards will play their next six against Western Conference teams, including the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings and the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

In fact, the Wizards play 12 of their final 16 games on the road, where they are just 10-19 this season. The Wizards don’t play at Verizon Center again until April 4.

Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler both scored 25 points for the Wizards, and Antawn Jamison finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, giving him his 33rd double-double of the season.

Vince Carter scored a game-high 28 points for the Nets (38-28), and Richard Jefferson had 27 on 11-for-15 shooting. Jason Kidd finished with 12 points and nine assists.

The Nets blew open what had been a 76-75 lead by making nine of 10 field goals to go ahead 96-83 with 4:37 left.

“New Jersey stepped up when winning time came,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said of the Nets, who were 12-for-16 in the fourth quarter. “They did a good job of picking their spots. I thought we got a little bit disjointed, a little bit distracted and we didn’t have a clear head as a unit to get it done tonight.”

Jefferson led the Nets down the stretch, making all four of his shots and scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter.

“I got it going in the second half,” said Jefferson, who made eight of 10 field goals in the second half. “I just tried to keep playing through my teammates. They found me on some good looks. Honestly, our whole team had it going in the second half.”

The Nets connected on 21 of 35 field goals in the second half. They shot 55.8 percent for the game.

That the Nets were victorious shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise when you consider how they have played in games they have led after three quarters. After last night’s win, the Nets are 31-0 when leading after three quarters.

The Nets have won 16 of their last 24 games and are virtually guaranteed the third seed in the East.

Coming off a 100-89 thrashing of Dallas on Sunday, the Nets carried the momentum into last night’s game.

The Nets took an 11-point lead on Carter’s 5-footer with just more than a minute left in the first quarter. They made 57 percent of their field goals (12 of 21) for a seven-point lead after the first.

The Wizards closed out the first quarter on a 6-0 run and steadily whittled away at the Nets’ lead. That continued into the second quarter as the Wizards used a 23-10 run to go ahead 39-37 on a Jamison dunk with just less than five minutes left in the half. New Jersey led 47-45 at halftime.

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