Aid from bench helps Wizards

The Baltimore Sun

Surely there was no way this was happening again. The Washington Wizards, mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, were down 17 in the second quarter at home and showing no life whatsoever.

It was enough to make a coach start pacing the bench.

"I just walked down and said, 'We're better than we're playing,' " coach Ed Tapscott said. "And, 'We need to bring more energy to everything we're doing.' You can't expect to walk between possessions, walk during timeouts and then all of a sudden fire up. We've just got to get ourselves moving."

So Tapscott turned to his subs, and they responded. Caron Butler's 33 points were supplemented by a season-high 16 from Juan Dixon (Calvert Hall, Maryland) and 15 from Darius Songaila as the Wizards rallied for a 107-94 victory last night over the redesigned lineup of the Detroit Pistons.

Songaila, Dixon (seven assists), Dominic McGuire (3-for-3, six points), Andray Blatche (eight points, five rebounds), and Nick Young (nine points) all provided inspired play off the bench, a necessity because the Washington starters not named Butler combined to score only 15 points.

"Sometimes the five guys who come out and start can't do it by themselves," said Songaila, whose biggest play might have been a momentum-swinging backdoor layup when the Pistons were trying to make a late run. The Wizards improved to 3-5 under interim coach Tapscott (4-15 overall), while the Pistons have lost four of five and dropped to 7-9 (11-9 overall) since the trade for Allen Iverson. Iverson started at shooting guard last night but he wasn't much of a factor, scoring 13 points.

"It doesn't have anything to do with one player. It has to do with all of the players," Iverson said. "I don't think one player has to do with having a 17-point lead, and then it dissolves like that."

Richard Hamilton scored a season-high 29 points, Rasheed Wallace added 19, and new starting point guard Rodney Stuckey had 10 points and 11 assists for the Pistons. Hamilton and Wallace each were called for technical fouls for fussing at the refs.

"Right now, we're a team [that] when things are not going good, we give in to it," coach Michael Curry said. "We unravel a little bit. We lose our composure. We can't be a team like that. We have to be mentally tough."

Cavaliers 114, Raptors 94: : LeBron James scored 31 points and set the team record for career steals, Zydrunas Ilgauskas became the Cavaliers' career leader in rebounds, and Cleveland (18-3) moved to 12-0 at home. The Raptors fell to 8-12.

Kings 113, Lakers 101: : Francisco Garcia and John Salmons scored 21 points apiece, and Sacramento (6-16) ended an eight-game losing streak with its first victory in nine home games. Los Angeles (17-3) couldn't rally while Kobe Bryant struggled with 9-of-25 shooting.

Spurs 133, Mavericks 126 (2OT): : Tim Duncan scored eight of his 32 points for visiting San Antonio (12-8) in the second overtime. Dallas (11-9) lost for only the second time in its last 10 games.

Bulls 105, Knicks 100: : Larry Hughes hit a tiebreaking three-pointer with 55 seconds to go for host Chicago (10-11). Al Harrington had 28 points for New York (9-12).

Rockets 92, Hawks 84: : Yao Ming scored 24 points and grabbed a season-high 19 rebounds for Houston (14-8), which beat Atlanta (12-8) at home for the 10th straight time.

Suns 125, Bucks 110: : Shaquille O'Neal scored a season-high 35 points to lead Phoenix (13-9), which beat Milwaukee (9-14) in Arizona for the 21st straight time.

Magic 109, Trail Blazers 108: : Hedo Turkoglu banked in a 3-pointer from 25 feet with less than one second remaining, and visiting Orlando rallied to improve its Southeast Division-leading record to 17-5. Portland fell to 15-8 and into a first-place tie with Denver in the Northwest Division.

Off the court

Mavericks: : Josh Howard put his problematic left ankle into a walking boot, and Dallas doesn't know how long it will be without its second-leading scorer and rebounder.

Trail Blazers: : Swingman Martell Webster will be sidelined for an estimated four weeks after experiencing pain in his left foot during Sunday's game at Toronto.

Pistons: : The team re-signed Antonio McDyess a month after the Nuggets acquired him as part of the Iverson trade and released him.

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