Saturday, March 29, 2008

SACRAMENTO — Another road game, another slow start and another electrifying comeback for the Washington Wizards.

This time the Wizards - on the third stop of a five-game western trip - victimized the Sacramento Kings, rallying from a 13-point halftime deficit to prevail 114-108 last night at Arco Arena.

With the victory, the Wizards improved to 38-34 on the season and moved to four games above .500 for the first time since Jan. 30.

Five Wizards finished in double figures with Antawn Jamison — recording 25 points and 12 rebounds for his 43rd double-double of the season - leading the way. Shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson scored 20 points, and forward Caron Butler added 18 points and seven assists. Darius Songaila added 17 off the bench, while point guard Antonio Daniels finished with 11.

Our guys just understand that 48 minutes is pure gold, meaning that every minute counts for us,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We play every minute with veteran leadership. They tell our guys every timeout, every halftime, every dead ball ‘Stay in it, concentrate.’ This is just a tribute to our leadership, Antawn, Caron, [Daniels] and DeShawn Stevenson.

As was the case two nights earlier in a comeback win over in Seattle, the Wizards struggled to execute and defend for the better part of three quarters.

After leading the Kings 19-13 with five minutes left in the first quarter, the Wizards allowed their hosts to go on a 12-3 run that led to a 31-21 advantage heading into the second quarter.

The Kings (32-40) continued to outplay the Wizards in the second, outscoring them 24-16 while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Meanwhile, Washington struggled, getting only six of 18 shots to fall. The Kings took 10-point leads at three different times in the second quarter and went in at halftime up 55-43.

Sacramento continued its strong play early in the third quarter and led Washington 68-56 with 7:27 left in the period. Then the Kings fell apart and the Wizards rallied.

Sacramento forward Mikki Moore was called for a charge and argued the call, drawing a technical foul. He kept arguing with the official after receiving the technical and was assessed another and ejected.

Butler made both foul shots to trim the lead to 68-58.

A minute and a half later, Washington pulled within seven points when Jamison dunked on an alley-oop from Butler and was fouled in the process. He converted the three-point play to make the score 70-63.

The teams traded baskets until the Wizards managed to further narrow the gap on two foul shots by Stevenson and a layup by Songaila - who began his pro career in Sacramento — that cut the score to 74-71 with 3-1/2 minutes left in the third.

Butler turned in a highlight-worthy play that even impressed the home team when he drove the lane, went up with the ball in his right hand, cocked it all the way back and threw down a thunderous tomahawk jam on a leaping Kevin Martin.

It was just a momentum boost, Butler said. Obviously, looking for something to get myself going. Everybody else had a nice rhythm about themselves. Just trying to find something … ended up being success. And once that happened, it opened up a lot of other situations because then I got a couple more fast break dunks, getting into the passing lane and shooting the gaps and stuff.

The play pulled Washington within 75-73 and kicked off a 16-4 run that spanned the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth.

With 1:30 left in the third, Butler scooped up a loose ball, spun away from the Kings’ John Salmons and raced the length of the floor for a dunk that tied the game at 79-79. Songaila then gave the Wizards their first lead since the first quarter when he sank a hook shot and drew a foul. His successful free throw put Washington up 82-79, which is where the score stood when the quarter ended.

Backup Roger Mason Jr. continued the Wizards’ tear, hitting a pull-up jumper to open the fourth quarter and then drilling a 3-pointer 50 seconds later.

Twice down the stretch the Kings pulled within striking distance of the Wizards - 96-94 on two foul shots by Salmons with six minutes left and 108-105 with Ron Artest’s 3-pointer with 51 seconds remaining.

But the first time Stevenson drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to hold off the Kings, and then Songaila knocked down a putback with 36 seconds left. He went on to score the Wizards’ last eight points of the game.

Caron did a great job finding me and all I had to do was to lay it in and then make free throws, Songaila said. The biggest thing for us was getting stops at the other end. Roger came in and we were down and made a couple of shots and from there, we stayed with it, got some stops on the other end and in the end we got the W.

Notes - Jamison, who entered last night’s game averaging 21.5 points and 10.4 rebounds, is on pace to become Washington’s first 20-point, 10-rebound a game player since Chris Webber in the 1996-97 season. Jamison would be the eighth player in the history of the franchise to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in a season. Hall of Famers Elvin Hayes (six times), Walt Bellamy (four times) Moses Malone (twice) lead the way. And Gus Johnson (1996-67), Jeff Ruland (1983-84) and Pervis Ellison (1991092) also achieved the feat. …

The NBA announced yesterday that the Wizards’ April 9 home game against the Boston Celtics will be nationally televised on ESPN. Tip-off remains at 7 p.m. and the game will still be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet and heard on AM-980.

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