Prior to the All-Star break, Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan was trying to impress upon his team the importance of playing strong defense. The Wizards, though, seem determined to show they can still rely on their offense.
Washington looks to build off its impressive shooting performance to open the second half of the season when it hosts the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.
The Wizards lost for the fourth time in five games on Feb. 11, getting routed 94-73 at home to Portland. Following that defeat, leading scorer Gilbert Arenas criticized Jordan for overemphasizing defense to the team.
The two said the issue was quickly cleared up, but not before a players-only meeting and a one-on-one meeting with Jordan and Arenas.
“It was blown out of proportion,” Arenas said. “We had a little bump, and we can fix it now.”
Whatever was said in those meetings seems to have helped, as Washington beat Philadelphia 92-85 before the break and returned to defeat Minnesota 112-100 on Tuesday.
The Southeast Division-leading Wizards (30-21) shot 50.6 percent from the field against the Timberwolves, tying their eighth-best performance of the season. Arenas, who had not shot better than 42.1 percent in any of his previous six games, finished with 38 points on 12-for-24 shooting.
Arenas is shooting just 34.8 percent this month, including 15.7 from 3-point range (8-for-51).
“He started a little bit rusty,” Jordan said. “But he got going when we needed him.”
Arenas also went 13-for-15 from the free throw line Tuesday, while DeShawn Stevenson scored a season-high 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting to raise his field-goal percentage to 50.1.
“He’s ‘Hibachi,’ but I’m ‘Mr. Fifty,’” Stevenson said. “Put that in the newspaper so he’ll get mad.”
Washington has won three straight against the Kings (23-29) after posting just two victories in the previous 14 meetings in the series. The Wizards won 126-119 in Sacramento on Dec. 21 behind Antawn Jamison’s 33 points and 13 rebounds.
Jamison, who has missed the last seven games with a sprained left knee, is expected to return sometime in the next few weeks.
Sacramento forward Ron Artest, who didn’t play in the December loss to Washington because of sore knees, had 18 points and eight rebounds as the Kings snapped a three-game losing streak with a 104-101 win over Boston on Tuesday.
Each starter scored in double figures for Sacramento, led by Kevin Martin’s 22 points. Artest also added four steals and two blocked shots, including one under the basket late in the game to help seal the win.
“We just wanted to avoid the sluggishness after the break, and we finished it off,” Martin said. “It happens to everybody in this situation.”
This is the first of a four-game road trip for the Kings, who are just 7-17 away from home. Sacramento, though, has won five of its last eight visits to Washington.