- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

As much as they are criticized for their spotty defense, there are going to be nights when the Washington Wizards whir like a precision engine. They have so many offensive weapons that sometimes they can motor past opponents, leaving them in a cloud.

That’s what happened last night.

With Gilbert Arenas scoring 40 points and three other players reaching double digits, the Wizards routed the Indiana Pacers 117-91 at Verizon Center to even their record at 2-2.

It marked the 20th time of Arenas’ Wizards career — and 21st overall — that he reached the 40-point plateau. Antawn Jamison added 19 points, Caron Butler added 12, DeShawn Stevenson scored a season-high 10 points and Brendan Haywood came off the bench to score nine.

The Wizards blew the game open in the third quarter when they led by as many as 36 points and made an astounding 13 of 17 field goals.

“I don’t now if it’s a true indication of who we are — obviously it’s not,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “But we played better in the third quarter as far as everything — defense, offense and in terms of playing the way we should.”

The Pacers, whom the Wizards held to just 38.6 percent shooting, were led by Al Harrington’s 23 points.

Despite coming into last night’s contest with a 3-1 record, the Pacers couldn’t handle the Wizards.

Indiana was coming off a blowout victory at home over Philadelphia the night before, but that victory came at a price. Forward Jermaine O’Neal, who was scheduled to be in last night’s starting lineup as late as 6 p.m., was ruled out with a sprained ankle he suffered Tuesday night. O’Neal, who is averaging a team-high 19.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, instead watched from the bench in street clothes.

“That’s a shock to your team when you find out up to introductions that your best player is not playing,” Jordan said. “So we sort of took advantage of that.”

That’s an understatement. Washington took control late in first half, bridging the second and third quarters with a 50-15 run that produced a 94-58 margin and pretty much turned the remainder of the game into an extended practice for both sides.

Dominant third quarters at home have been a calling card for the Wizards in the early stages of the season. They scored 40 on Saturday in their win over Boston.

That hasn’t always been the case for the Wizards. In seasons past they have often come out and played horribly at the start of the third quarter, something that still resonates with the players who have been here for some time now.

“In the past in some third quarters we might be up by 15 points, and the next thing you know it’s a tie game,” Jamison said. “We have to do a better job when we have the lead. I know teams are going to make runs. It’s early, so who knows. Maybe it’s a sign of maturity on our part as far as realizing how important it is to come out and play with the same energy we had in the first half. That way we don’t fall behind the eight ball and find ourselves having to play catch up in the fourth quarter.”

Another facet of the Wizards’ game that is becoming more prevalent is their ability to force turnovers while being judicious with the ball themselves.

Ranked first in the league in steals and seventh in forcing turnovers, the Wizards forced the Pacers into 24 turnovers while corralling 13 steals. Washington, which entered last night with the fewest turnovers a game in the NBA, committed just 13.

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