WASHINGTON - The Washington Wizards were ripe to be taken last night at MCI Center, what with the usual turnovers and soft interior play.
But the Seattle SuperSonics, fresh off a 20-point thumping by New York on Friday, were in no state to give much of a sustained challenge, and the Wizards scooted away to a 99-84 victory.
The Washington effort, as it has been all season, was ragged, as the Wizards (11-28) gave away a 10-point second-quarter lead and committed 18 turnovers overall.
But the Wizards, the league's second-worst field-goal shooting unit (41 percent) had their best shooting performance of the season (51.2 percent), marking the first time in 2003-04 they have made at least half their shots.
"It wasn't pretty, but it was aggressive," said guard Larry Hughes, who had a game-high 27 points. "We matched their intensity, which helped us. They came at us strong and we went right back at them strong. We didn't allow them to get runs. We made stops on defense that allowed us to get out on the break. We had three guards out there, so it was easy to get out and get a flow."
In fact, absent Hughes' 9-for-24 performance, the rest of the team shot 57 percent.
Washington coach Eddie Jordan was quick to note that the SuperSonics didn't arrive in Washington until 4 a.m. yesterday, and likely weren't as rested as they could have been.
But the Wizards had also laid an egg the previous night in Detroit, losing a 98-77 decision for their third straight loss.
At this point in the season, with the team scrambling for as many positives as it can get, Jordan wasn't about to hold his nose at this win, the first over Seattle at MCI Center since the two teams met in December 1997 to open the building.
"We kind of redeemed ourselves [from Friday] night," Jordan said. "We talked about redeeming ourselves after that disappointing performance. A win for us ... [is] like soap. We haven't taken a shower in two weeks, it feels like, and now we got hot water and soap. And it feels good. It really feels good."
One of the big positives of the night was the play of rookie forward Jarvis Hayes, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds for his first career double double. Hayes, who got a start as Jordan chose to go with a smaller, quicker lineup to counter Seattle's bigger starters, was a big part of an aggressive effort.
"We always knew we were capable of doing it [shooting 50 percent], but we never were able to string it together and do it," Hayes said. "We just take something from this game, namely the enthusiasm and the way we were able to play together."
The Wizards broke a halftime tie with a 9-2 run to start the third quarter, with a pair of baskets from Hayes and a basket and free throw from Hughes. The SuperSonics cut the deficit to five, only to have Washington open the lead to 14 with an 11-4 spurt, punctuated by a three-pointer from Hughes with 5:53 left. In the fourth, Seattle never got closer than eight. The Sonics have lost four straight.
Next for Wizards
Matchup: Chicago Bulls
Site: MCI Center, Washington
When: Tomorrow, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: CN8, Ch. 50/WTEM (980 AM)
Wizards 99, SuperSonics 84 FGFTReb
Percentages: FG .393, FT .833. 3-Point Goals: 8-30, .267 (Daniels 2-4, Barry 2-5, Allen 2-9, Radmanovic 1-2, Murray 1-3, Frahm 0-1, Lewis 0-6). Team rebounds: 6. Team Turnovers: 21 (23 PTS). Blocked shots: 9 (Lewis 4, Booth 2, Barry, James, Allen). Turnovers: 21 (Lewis 5, Murray 5, Allen 4, Booth 2, James 2, Barry, Radmanovic, Daniels). Steals: 11 (Lewis 3, Radmanovic 2, Allen 2, Murray 2, Barry, Ridnour). Technical fouls: None. FGFTReb
Percentages: FG .512, FT .682. 3-point goals: 2-10, .200 (Dixon 1-2, Hughes 1-4, Blake 0-1, Butler 0-1, Hayes 0-2). Team rebounds: 13. Team Turnovers: 20 (15 PTS). Blocked shots: 4 (Thomas, Brown, Dixon, Jeffries). Turnovers: 18 (Brown 5, Hughes 3, Blake 3, Jeffries 2, Hayes 2, Thomas, Dixon, Butler). Steals: 10 (Hayes 3, Knight 3, Dixon 2, Brown, Hughes). Technical fouls: None. Seattle18271821-84
A-15,813 (20,674). T-1:59.Officials-Dan Crawford, Luis Grillo, Pat Fraher.