WASHINGTON (AP)—Washington’s offseason moves are finally paying off.
Caron Butler, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, had 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Reserve Antonio Daniels, who joined the Wizards as a free agent, added 17 points, four rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes. He also was perfect on 11 free throws.
“I’m just playing,” said Daniels, who has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games. “I’m not really concerned with anything else anymore, whether I’m starting or not starting. I’m concerned with winning basketball games. That’s all that matters to me.
“When you come into a new system, everybody has to learn new things. It’s just a matter of time and chemistry and getting an opportunity of getting to know each other. I’m not completely myself yet, but I’m not concerned with that because we’re winning games.”
The Wizards have won five in a row for the first time since Jan. 2-15, 2005, when they won seven straight. They’ve won seven consecutive home games and 13 of their last 17 overall.
“We’re rolling right now and we’re feeling good about what we’re doing,” Arenas said. “If you look at the last 20 games, we’re probably up there with the top three (teams) in the league. We’re just trying to milk everybody in so when it’s time to push, we’re ready to go.”
Arenas said this is the tightest-knit team he’s been involved with.
“At the beginning of the year, we were thinking this is a rebuilding season because there are six new players in a hard offense,” he said. “I was thinking this was going to be hard. But when you get along off the floor, it’s so much easier.”
Washington’s last home loss to an Eastern Conference opponent was Dec. 30, 2005, against Miami.
“The chemistry has gotten better and guys are really playing well off one another,” Butler said. “If we continue to play at this rate, we’ll be a team to watch out for in the playoffs.”
Antawn Jamison’s 3-pointer following Jared Jeffries’ come-from-behind block of Iverson’s shot gave Washington a 72-56 lead with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter. Jamison, who finished with 18 points, extended the lead to 82-62 late in the third quarter with a running layup off a behind-the-back pass from Butler. The Sixers never got back in contention.
Butler opened the third quarter with a jumper, an alley-oop feed to Jeffries for a dunk, and a 3-pointer that gave Washington a 59-48 lead.
“In the third quarter, everything went wrong,” Iverson said. “They got two easy buckets and we called timeout and it didn’t get any better.”
Iverson led all scorers with 21 points in the first half on 9-for-18 shooting, but the Wizards led 52-46 at halftime.
“We lost a little handle on the game,” Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. “They got out on the break and we missed a lot of easy shots that allowed them to get out on the break. That’s how they ended up with the lead and built it up to 21. A couple of backdoor plays—kind of the same story it’s been for a while.”
Daniels gave Washington a lift with 12 points in the second quarter. Arenas assisted Butler on a layup that capped a 7-0 run and gave the Wizards a 42-35 lead with 3:42 remaining in the first half.
“You just have to want to do it,” Iverson said. “You have to approach both halves the same way and we are not doing it. I don’t know how, but I know that it has to be done. I know if we get frustrated and start turning on each other that it is only going to get worse. Like always, you just have to find out what character you have on the team.”
Because of snow in Washington, the Wizards will allow customers to exchange tickets to Sunday’s game for upper-level seats at the Feb. 21 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Although they were late arriving, most of the 20,173 fans made it to the game, giving the Wizards their 11th sellout of the season. … After Iverson told official Danny Crawford that he did not see a play well enough to make a call, Crawford quipped: “That’s the first time you were right, Al.”