- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2006

The last time the Washington Wizards played the Boston Celtics in their home opener, they turned the game into a laugher, destroying the visitors 114-69 for the third-highest margin of victory in franchise history.

That was four seasons ago. This year’s Wizards (0-1) don’t expect the Celtics — 0-2 after losing to Detroit last night — to roll over tonight. And over the years, especially the last two, the Wizards have been strong at home.

“We know that if we win more than our fair share of home games, we will be all right,” Wizards reserve guard Jarvis Hayes said after the team’s practice yesterday at Verizon Center. “The road has always been tough for us. If we can win 30 games or more — that’s always one of the goals we set at the beginning of the season — then we’ll be fine.”

Reserve Antonio Daniels also looks forward to taking advantage of homecourt tonight.

“I think the home games are very important to us,” he said. “We’ve got certain goals throughout the course of the season and it starts tomorrow as far as the home court is concerned. Last year I don’t think we defended our home court the way we needed to. It’s a new year, new opportunity and we’ve got a new attitude. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and take care of business like we’re capable of.”

Last year, the Wizards won 27 homes games. The year before they were better, winning an arena-record 29 home games.

The Wizards hope that tonight’s game against Boston will better replicate that game of four years ago than the two played at Verizon Center last season. The Wizards defeated the Celtics 103-102 on a free throw by Gilbert Arenas, and Boston won the rematch on Paul Pierce’s last-second fadeaway jumper in overtime, giving the Celtics a 116-115 victory.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, while happy to play at home, isn’t quite sure what to expect from the Wizards tonight. After all, just one of the Wizards eight preseason games — the Oct. 9 preseason opener against Toronto — was played at Verizon Center.

“That’s almost a month since we played on our home court, so that’s a little bit different than most teams,” Jordan said.

The Wizards need the victory to shake the bad taste left by Wednesday’s season-opening loss at Cleveland.

In a nationally televised game against the same team that eliminated them from last year’s playoffs in six games, the Wizards were outrebounded 50-33. The Wizards needed a key stop late in the game, but instead allowed a LeBron James layup, which put the Cavaliers ahead for good in the final minute.

“I think that the biggest reason why we lost the game was because of the rebounding, not the shots that Antawn [Jamison] and I missed at the end,” Hayes said of two 3-pointers the Wizards missed in the final 10 seconds. “We can’t let that happen especially in our own building.”

The Wizards also need increased production from Arenas, who was in foul trouble early against Cleveland and never found any type of rhythm, missing his first nine shots and finishing with just seven points.

Arenas, who also had 11 assists, exhibited resiliency last season after a poor performance. In 80 games last season, Arenas was held to fewer than 20 points just 14 times. However, in the game immediately following a sub 20-point performance, Arenas averaged 33.1 points.

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