Where's the D? Jamison, Wizards score early, often to end Knicks' streak at 3
WASHINGTON -- Chatting informally with a group of reporters, Gilbert Arenas mentioned he expects to be ready to return from knee surgery March 1.
Earlier in the day, Etan Thomas said he plans to be back from open heart surgery at some point this season.
The Washington Wizards are doing OK in the meantime, thank you.
Antawn Jamison scored 32 points and Caron Butler added 22 while stretching his made free-throw streak to an NBA season-high 54 Friday night, leading Washington to a 111-98 victory over the New York Knicks, who had won their previous three games.
"These are games you enjoy watching on TV," Knicks center Eddy Curry said, "but you don't like being a part of, if you're the opposition."
Washington has won four of its past five games to improve to 21-17, despite playing without injured All-Star Arenas since November. He said after the game he's been pain-free since having a second operation on his left knee and he thinks he can be "mentally and physically ready" to return in about 1½ months.
In his absence, Jamison and Butler -- both past All-Stars and making good cases for selections this season -- have been leading the way, night in and night out.
But the Wizards also are getting contributions from up and down the roster, and this night was no different.
Rookie guard Nick Young scored 12 points in the second quarter on perfect shooting: 5-for-5 on field goals, 1-for-1 at the line.
Another rookie reserve, 7-foot Oleksiy Pecherov, contributed eight points and four rebounds, while Roger Mason scored 10 points, including a 3-pointer that made it 99-90 with 8 minutes left after the Knicks made a bit of a run. Their minutes could go down if and when starting guard Arenas and reserve center Thomas return.
"If those guys continue to play well, and I do believe they will," Butler said, "it makes things easier for us."
The Wizards finished with their most points since scoring 118 against Memphis on Nov. 24, recorded their highest first-half point total of the season (61), and shot 62 percent in the first half and 57 percent for the game.
"They shot well tonight -- and we'll leave it at that," said Quentin Richardson, who scored a season-high 21 points for New York, 19 in the first half. "We're a work in progress."
No argument with that: The Knicks dropped to 12-27.
"The record don't do them justice," Butler said. "Isiah is really working that squad down there."
The Knicks' recent run included a victory at home over Washington on Tuesday, but they failed to record what would have been the team's first four-game winning streak since January 2006.
"Some nights, you just run into a team that's playing a little better than you are," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said, "and tonight the Wizards were playing better than we were."
Jamison shot 14-for-20, including a 6-for-7 start, while Butler was 9-for-20 on field goals and 4-for-4 at the foul line. He extended his own franchise record for consecutive free throws and surpassed Phoenix guard Steve Nash's 53-shot streak this season.
The Knicks scored 12 straight points to get within 92-88 early in the fourth quarter. And then, just like that, Washington put together a spurt capped by Butler's two free throws that made it 103-90 with 6½ minutes to go. Washington then stretched its lead to as many as 17.
Point guard Antonio Daniels returned to Washington's lineup after missing the game in New York with a knee injury. He played 30 minutes and finished with eight points and seven assists.
"He kept us organized a lot," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "Guys feel comfortable when he's the lead guard."
He'll only be in the lineup, however, until Arenas is.
Butler's free-throw streak is the longest in the NBA since Kobe Bryant made 62 in a row in 2005-06, the Wizards said. ... Etan Thomas said he should be able to practice with his teammates soon, the next step in his return from October's operation. "I definitely plan on returning this year," Thomas said on "The John Thompson Show" on WTEM. "I'm able to do more and more. I'm looking forward to getting cleared to be able to practice here soon."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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