- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

SALT LAKE CITY — The Washington Wizards spent the last few days talking about starting their six-game Western Conference swing on a positive note.

Mission accomplished.

The Wizards connected on a franchise record 16 3-pointers and held on to defeat the Utah Jazz 109-97 last night at Delta Center. The previous record was 14 set against New Jersey on Jan. 4, 2005.

With the win, the Wizards (35-32) gained a half-game on idle Indiana and took sole possession of fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with 31 points, connecting on six 3-pointers. Caron Butler finished with 27 points, and Antawn Jamison, who scored 20 of his 27 points in the first half, set a career high with seven 3-pointers.

Carlos Boozer led Utah with 30 points.

The Wizards led 88-72 early in the fourth quarter and appeared to be on their way to an easy win.

But a 12-2 run pulled the Jazz within 90-84, and Utah eventually cut the lead to 97-93 when Andrei Kirilenko scored with 2:22 to play. But Arenas answered with yet another 3-pointer. Utah’s Carlos Boozer scored on a layup, and Antonio Daniels responded by going baseline for a dunk that put the Wizards back in command at 102-95.

Salt Lake City never has been a friendly place for the Wizards. In fact, last season Washington ended a five-game losing streak here that dated to Nov. 3, 1997.

However, most of those games were against Jazz teams that featured Karl Malone — who had his number retired at halftime — and John Stockton, arguably the greatest power forward-point guard combination in the history of the league.

The Jazz helped the Wizards hit their nadir this season when they met Jan. 10. At the time, Utah was playing its best basketball all year, winning eight of nine games. One of those was a 97-89 win at Washington that dropped the Wizards to 13-19, a season-high six games below .500.

That proved to be a turning point for Washington. It won 16 of its next 22 games to move back into playoff contention.

The Wizards led 24-23 after one quarter last night and 32-31 with 6:32 left in the half after Utah’s Matt Harpring scored on a fast break layup.

However, the Wizards held the Jazz to just one free throw over the next three minutes or so, reeling off a 15-1 run capped by Jamison’s 3-pointer with 3:23 left for a 47-32 Washington advantage.

Utah responded with a run of its own, ticking off nine straight points to pull within 47-41 as Devin Brown sank the first of two free throws.

That seemed to be a nice momentum builder for the Jazz, but Jamison had other plans.

Brown missed the second free throw, and Jamison rebounded the ball with 3.7 seconds to play, took a few dribbles, got within 35 feet of the basket and swished his sixth 3-pointer of the half for a 50-41 Washington lead.

Jamison cooled considerably in the third quarter, when he missed all three of his shots.

That didn’t stop the Wizards. Recognizing that Brown couldn’t contain Butler, the Wizards went to him relentlessly. Butler made all seven of his attempts in the third, when he scored 15 points.

Arenas, meanwhile, had his way with rookie Deron Williams, scoring 11 points in the quarter.

All told, Butler and Arenas combined for 26 of the Wizards’ 28 points in the quarter as they pulled away.

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