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Wizards even record with victory over Magic

The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- Nobody holds parades for .500 records. The Washington Wizards aren't looking for one even if the organization reached that standard for the first time in over four seasons. Besides, they are playing at a much higher clip lately.

Forward Trevor Ariza scored 24 points, point guard John Wall had 16 points and 13 assists and the Washington Wizards posted their largest win of the season with a 98-80 rout over the Orlando Magic on Monday night.

Power forward Nene had 14 points and center Marcin Gortat 13 for the Wizards, who won seven of nine games in 14 days after starting the season losing seven of nine.

At 9-9, Washington owns a .500 record for the first time since Nov. 3, 2009, when the team started the season 2-2. The Wizards are third in the Eastern Conference.

"It's just something that we knew we could do," said Ariza, who scored 19 points in the first half, made all four of his 3-point attempts and eight of nine shots overall. "We're not satisfied again. We want to continue this winning thing and make it a tradition around here."

Ariza sizzled from the field for a second straight game. Led by Ariza's perimeter touch, the Wizards sank nine of 13 3-point tries. Orlando finished three of 15.

Swingman Arron Afflalo scored 21 points and forward Moe Harkless had 16 for the Magic, who have lost two straight and six of eight.

"We didn't give their team our best tonight. I think they know that, too," said Magic forward Glen Davis. "Hopefully, we'll get something going and get a win tomorrow."

The Wizards let a 13-point first-quarter lead disappear and trailed by five in the second only to close the period with 17-6 run for a 52-41 halftime lead. They maintained a double-digit cushion most of the second half, led by 21 in the fourth quarter and won by at least 10 points for the second time this season.

"Mentally, I think we've come a long ways," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of his squad. "Tonight I just thought they came out and they were bound and determined to win this game, start to finish."

With his father watching him play live for the first in the NBA, rookie guard and D.C. area native Victor Oladipo had 13 points for the Magic. Davis and guard E'Twaun Moore each went 1-for-8 from the field.

"We just didn't hit shots," Oladipo said. "I think we had great looks. I think we had great opportunities. We just didn't finish."

In Saturday's 108-101 win over Atlanta, Ariza made seven of 10 shots, including five of six from beyond the 3-point arc. He continued that torrid pace from the wing and corners against Orlando.

"I got a lot of open looks," Ariza said. "When you get a lot of time to tee them up, you're not going to miss too many. ...Those are shots that I practice and shots that I was in rhythm to take."

Constantly set up by Wall helped Ariza and the entire Wizards offense. During the winning stretch, Wittman has relied heavily on his starters because of injuries and limited scoring production from his bench. The point-production disparity proved evident in the first half.

Washington played like a winning team at the start, quickly opening a 15-2 lead. Wittman liberally used his reserves in the first quarter. Orlando took advantage. By the end of the quarter, the Magic tied the game at 22-22.

Afflalo's layup early in the second quarter put Orlando up 29-24.

Wittman returned to his starters and again, the lead flipped. The Wizards outscored Orlando 17-6 over the final 4:30. Wall, who recorded double-doubles in consecutive games, capped the surge with an off-balance 3-pointer. He finished the half with 11 points and nine assists.

As for how high the Wizards can finish this season, Gortat threw out the idea of 50 victories. If correct, it would be the first time since the 1978-79 season when the franchise reached the NBA finals.

"These guys lost a lot of games last year," said Gortat, who joined Washington after losing plenty with the Phoenix Suns last season. "In the past 48 hours, the thing I heard was how everyone is excited that we're finally winning."

NOTES: Wizards F Trevor Ariza scored 11 points in the first quarter after scoring 11 in the fourth quarter of Saturday's win over the Atlanta Hawks. ... Magic G E'Twaun Moore started for Jameer Nelson, who missed his second consecutive game due to a sprained left foot. Orlando F Tobias Harris (sore left ankle) sat out for a fourth straight game. ... After playing nine games in 14 days, the Wizards are off until Friday when they host the Milwaukee Bucks. That means rest for F Nene, who is playing through a sore Achilles, and potentially practice time for F Al Harrington (right knee) and rookie F Otto Porter (right hip). Harrington missed the past 11 games, while Porter has not played this season. ... Orlando stays on the road with a stop against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.
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