Wizards Top Magic to Get Back to .500
Washington 94, Orlando 82
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (Ticker) -- Gilbert Arenas' and Antawn Jamison's efforts on both ends of the court got the Washington Wizards back to the .500 mark.
Arenas scored 23 points and Jamison added 21 as the Wizards evened their record with a 94-82 victory over the slumping Orlando Magic.
"I haven't put a lot of stock into that number," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said about being .500. "It's good that we won a game tonight and that we are continuing to move up in the standings."
The win, coupled with Philadelphia's loss to Houston, moved Washington a step closer to taking over seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers are now 24-24.
"The number that I like better is the percentage of games that we have won out of our last 20 games (11-9)," Jordan added. "If we thought that .500 was our ultimate goal, then there is nothing more to achieve. We really want to keep the momentum going."
Despite making just 6-of-24 shots, Arenas netted 8-of-9 foul shots, handed out eight assists and made four steals.
"We turned it on at the right time," Arenas said. "We played solid defense all the way through, and in the fourth quarter we gave that extra effort and got the win."
Jamison was just as impressive defensively, matching his career high with six steals. The 6-8 forward also added 11 rebounds to notch his 24th double-double of the season.
"We are almost where we were at this point last year," Jamison said. "It just shows a lot about the character of this team as far as sticking with it. We believe that this is a pretty good team. The way that we are playing defensively and offensively, you can see that we have something special here. I think it's just a matter of time before we get even better."
After trailing by double digits for the majority of the third period, Orlando ended the quarter with an 11-2 surge to cut its deficit to 68-62. However, Washington put away the game early in the final session.
"We got it back down to a four-point game and Gilbert came down and made a couple big shots and Jamison, too," Magic guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "We started off slow and dug ourselves a hole, and when we got back, they put the pressure back on and went back up by 10 points. ... In the third we were making shots and they were making shots. It came down to who was going to stop the other first."
Arenas' 3-pointer with 10:53 left started an 11-2 surge and his two foul shots with 8:11 remaining capped it for a 79-64 edge. The 6-4 guard was responsible for seven points during the run.
"We had a lot of careless mistakes but I think that our defensive pressure was not there the whole game," Magic forward Dwight Howard said. "We gave them easy baskets on our turnovers and that's one thing our coaches have been impressing on us all year."
Caron Butler chipped in 12 points for Washington, which scored 28 points off 18 Magic turnovers. Reserve guard Antonio Daniels had 16 points and a season-high six rebounds. Rookie Donell Taylor added 10 points off the bench.
"I thought their guys coming off the bench won the game for them," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "Daniels and Taylor are the guys who came in and broke our back with 16 and 10 respectively."
Stevenson had 20 points and Howard collected 16 and 11 rebounds for Orlando, which has lost five of its last six contests.
"It was tough, man," said Magic guard Steve Francis, who scored a season-low five points on 2-for-5 shooting. "Once I didn't get in the groove early, it was kind of hard to pick it up. ... Myself and Hedo (Turkoglu) didn't shoot the ball particularly well and I think that kind of put a bind on the other guys."