for this game

Wizards hang on, register first winning streak

Dec 30, 2008 - 5:58 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Victories have been few and far between for the Washington Wizards this season - but for the first time, they've managed to win two in a row.

Antawn Jamison took over in the third quarter to lift the Wizards to a surprising 89-87 win over the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

The All-Star forward scored 15 of his season-high 30 points in the third quarter to deliver just the sixth win of the season for Washington.

"I just got into a rhythm with my jump shot," Jamison said of the third quarter. "(Luis) Scola did a good job bumping me and putting a body on me the first half. The last couple of games we've been moving the ball and making our opponents play some defense."

"Twan's a scorer," Washington coach Ed Tapscott said of Jamison. "We're going to go to him and through him. He's a willing passer."

Of course, the Wizards still had to sweat it out. They staged a 9-0 run to storm ahead late in the fourth quarter, then overcame a nearly disastrous turnover on their final possession to survive.

With Houston down by four with 32 seconds remaining, Tracy McGrady - trying to make up for a miserable shooting night - pulled up from 20 feet and buried a clutch jumper to pull the Rockets within two. On the defensive end, they got it done to give themselves a chance, as Ron Artest picked up his second steal.

But Yao Ming missed an eight-foot turnaround attempt from the right baseline as the Wizards escaped for their first two-game winning streak following Saturday's victory over Oklahoma City.

"We had to keep it simple, dig in and defend," Tapscott said.

Andray Blatche, Washington's 6-11 center, played Yao man-to-man on the final possession.

"I prepared for it," Blatche said of Yao getting the ball for the final shot. "I contested the shot and Dominic (McGuire) got the rebound."

Yao struggled all night, shooting 4-of-14 and finishing with only 12 points.

"I thought it was a clean look," he said of his last shot. "Nobody rebounded."

"It was a pretty good shot," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We got Yao the ball. He turned, shot a jumper and it just didn't go in."

McGrady also misfired most of the evening, going 6-of-17 and ending up with 15 points. Rafer Alston was 3-of-10 and the Rockets made only 40 percent (32-of-80) as a team.

"We're just not making shots," McGrady said. "We just thought that we could turn it on in the fourth quarter and win this ballgame against a team that doesn't really show that they are a good team. It really backfired on us."

The Wizards won only their second road game of the season against 11 losses. They beat Houston without leading scorer Caron Butler, who has a sprained left ankle and missed his second game in a row.

"It's a confidence builder for us," Tapscott said of the road victory. "It allows me to sell the formula. This has been a good offensive team. Injuries have taken that away. We have to be better on defense."

Houston led for most of the first quarter, but needed two free throws by Luis Scola with five seconds on the clock to take a 22-21 lead after the first.

Washington opened the second quarter with six points in a row - including four from Darius Songaila - to pull ahead, 27-22. Houston tied it on Carl Landry's jumper and Artest's 3-pointer later in the period.

The Wizards ran off the next 11 points, five by Juan Dixon, to open a 38-27 advantage. They widened that lead to 45-33 before the Rockets scored the final three points of the quarter to cut the Wizards' lead to 45-36 at halftime.

Washington held a 28-8 edge over the Rockets in the paint - despite a distinct size disadvantage - thanks to some smooth passing. The Wizards collected 12 assists on 18 field goals in the first half.

But Jamison began to heat up in the third quarter. He hit 6-of-9 shots - including a pair of back-to-back long jumpers to push the lead back into double digits - to help Washington stretch its lead to 72-62 through three.

But Artest ignited a Rockets rally early in the fourth quarter. The veteran forward scored seven in a row to bring Houston within 74-71.

Houston finally went back on top on Brent Barry's 3-pointer - his first basket of the game - with 9:05 to play before the Wizards rallied back in the game's waning minutes.

"We've had our fair share of playing good teams close and coming up short," Jamison said. "We just fought through it (tonight). We kept our poise and stayed calm."

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