- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 20, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. — Last night was the perfect time for the Washington Wizards to send a message to a division rival.

They did just that in Orlando with a 114-93 rout of the Magic in a battle for first place in the Southeast Division.

The win, which came in front of 17,451 at Amway Arena, was the Wizards’ (23-16) largest road victory of the season. And even though they put up big offensive numbers, the Wizards wanted only to talk about their play on the defensive end.

“We locked down,” Caron Butler said. “Coach kept telling us to make it more and more like a playoff atmosphere. When we were in timeouts he kept emphasizing it to us. No disrespect to Orlando, but we are the team that has made it to the playoffs the last two years.”

The Wizards moved ahead of the Magic (22-18) by 11/2 games in the standings.

Not only did the win end the Wizards’ four-game road losing streak and give them their first road win of 2007, but it also marked just their fourth win in Orlando in their last 28 games.

The Wizards so thoroughly dominated the second half that the majority of the Magic fans began leaving the arena with more than seven minutes left in the game.

“We locked them down and that feels real good,” said DeShawn Stevenson, who last season started 82 games for Orlando. “When we get it rolling at both ends we’re really hard to beat. Especially when we’re making shots. It shouldn’t be that way, but when we are making shots our defense gets better, too.”

Leading 73-71 late in the third quarter, the Wizards went on to outscore the Magic 35-15 over the next 12 minutes.

“I thought it was a very disappointing loss for our team,” said Orlando coach Brian Hill, whose team started this season with a 13-4 record. “I think we should be embarrassed by the way we played in the second half. I thought we were totally outworked and outhustled in every aspect of the game, every player on the floor.”

The Wizards scored 31 points off 19 Magic turnovers.

With Antawn Jamison pulling down a season-high 16 rebounds to go with his game-high 31 points, the Wizards outrebounded the Magic 50-38. The Wizards pounded Orlando on the offensive glass 23-7.

And while the Magic shot the better percentage from the field, that was partially a byproduct of Orlando taking 19 fewer shots because it turned the ball over so much. Washington was 42-for-96 from the floor compared with Orlando’s 36-for-77.

“It was a great defensive effort I thought,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “I was happy to see that. That is a good team.”

Gilbert Arenas finished with 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Butler added 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Grant Hill led the Magic with 24 points, 19 of which came in the first half. Dwight Howard added 20 points and 13 rebounds and Jameer Nelson finished with 15 points for Orlando, which has lost its last four games.

Jordan didn’t think the Wizards were being aggressive enough offensively in the first half, reflected in zero trips to the foul line in the first 24 minutes.

In the second half, Washington shot 25 free throws.

“We stepped it up in the second half in every category,” Jamison said. “It’s a satisfying win for us, no doubt.”

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