Wizards 105, Suns 100

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WASHINGTON (AP)—Down 15 points in the fourth quarter, the Washington Wizards were headed for their most embarrassing loss of the season. Instead, they put on one of their best rallies.

A 15-0 run wiped out the deficit in a hurry, and Larry Hughes, Brendan Haywood and Steve Blake were all big down the stretch in Friday night’s 105-100 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

“This would have just been really bad to let this one get away,” said Haywood, who had seven points and seven rebounds in the fourth quarter. “I don’t know what it is about this team. We play better from behind. I don’t think that’s good, but tonight it was good for us.”

Two teams mired at the bottom of the standings put on a dismal display for much of the game. But the Wizards are in the middle of the seven-game homestand, while the Suns are on a tiring five-game road trip.

Washington even had a 14-point lead in the first half, but nothing has come easy for this team—and the booing fans let them have it during a third-quarter collapse.

“I’m used to it,” coach Eddie Jordan said. “You have to keep your poise when you’re down. You’re hearing your fans being very disappointed. You hear it, and you have to turn a deaf ear to it, and just say let’s keep going.”

Hughes scored 13 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, including seven in the 15-0 run, and his 3-pointer with 1:12 remaining put Washington ahead by four. Blake scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. Haywood’s fourth-quarter performance gave him nine points and 13 rebounds for the game.

The Wizards grabbed a season-high 59 rebounds, but they also committed 25 turnovers and missed 19 free throws. They improved to 2-2 in their longest homestand of the season.

Joe Johnson tied a career-high with 28 points and had a career-high nine assists, and Shawn Marion added 24 points for the Suns, who are 1-3 on an East Coast swing that ends Saturday at New York. Phoenix’s best moments came when the fast break got going and produced a 19-2 run in the third quarter.

The Wizards cut the lead to seven at the end of the quarter, but the Suns opened the fourth with an 8-0 run. Phoenix led 86-71 with 8:48 to play before the Wizards’ 15-0 run, capped by 3-pointers from Hughes and Blake, tied the game with 5:11 remaining.

“We just came apart,” Marion said. “We were holding the ball and trying to dribble around in circles and stuff. We can’t be doing that. That killed us right there.”

The Suns played so poorly in the first quarter that it was amazing they never trailed by more than 13. They committed nine turnovers, were outrebounded 8-1 on the offensive boards and took just three free throws to Washington’s 13.

The Wizards, thin in the frontcourt for most of the season, built a lead against a team even weaker in the middle. Kwame Brown and Etan Thomas combined for 14 points and 11 rebounds in the first quarter to help build a 29-18 lead.

Washington played turnover-ball in the second quarter, spurring a 13-3 Suns run. The first-half box score was as ugly as they come. The teams combined for 22 turnovers, 14 missed free throws (20-for-34) and 16 missed 3-pointers (4-for-20).

“We started the game slow, like we were in a slow-motion game,” Marionsaid.

Notes

Washington’s Jerry Stackhouse, who hasn’t played all season because of a knee injury, completed his first full practice since training camp Thursday, leaving him optimistic that he can return after the All-Star break. “I’m anxious to get back and see if I can just make the game easier for (our younger players),” Stackhouse said. “I don’t know if I’m ready to be able to go out and hunt 35 (minutes) or try to be the aggressor that I’ve been for eight years at this point right now. I’m optimistic that I can get back to that, but right now I think just being on the court, just being a leader to the guys, can have an effect for us to be better than where we are right now.” … Jahidi White, traded early in the season from the Wizards to the Suns, had four points and nine rebounds in his first game against his former team. … A sign of bothteams’ struggles: Both have used 14 starting lineups this season.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Phoenix
J. Johnson J. Johnson
11-23,  28 Pts
5 Rebs, 9 Assists
 Washington
L. Hughes L. Hughes
8-18,  23 Pts
9 Rebs, 5 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists