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Wizards escape Rockets 101-98
Updated: 2005-03-03 14:02

Larry Hughes made an emphatic and timely return to the Wizards on Wednesday, scoring 31 points in his first game since breaking his thumb to help lead Washington to a 101-98 victory over the Houston Rockets.

Washington Wizards' Larry Hughes (20) gets between Houston Rockets' Yao Ming (news), right, of China and Mike James (13) during the fourth quarter of the Wizards' 101-98 win Wednesday, March 2, 2005, in Washington. Hughes had 31 points. ([AP]
Hughes made 11 of 20 shots and had six rebounds and four assists, and backcourt partner Gilbert Arenas had 33 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Wizards, who had lost two straight and five of six. The Wizards have an eight-game winning streak when Hughes is in the lineup, but the previous seven came before he was sidelined after a victory over Phoenix on Jan. 15.

The Wizards blew a 17-point third-quarter lead but rallied from an eight-point fourth quarter deficit. Hughes' 3-pointer gave Washington the lead for good with 3:16 remaining, part of a 13-2 run in which Hughes and Arenas combined for 11.

Brendan Haywood scored six of his 12 points in the final two minutes, including a short turnaround fadeaway jumper over Yao Ming to put the Wizards ahead 99-95 with 50 seconds left. Tracy McGrady made a 3-pointer for his last of his 26 points with seven seconds remaining, but Arenas made two free throws with six seconds to play to put the Wizards up by three. McGrady, guarded by Hughes, missed a 3-pointer that could have tied the game at the buzzer.

McGrady usually thrives on the Wizards — he had averaged 39.4 points in his last five meetings with Washington — but he made just 9 of 19 shots and didn't come alive until scoring 10 in the fourth quarter. Mike James scored 24 points for the Rockets, who had six players in double figures but lost for the fourth time in five games since the All-Star break.

The Rockets, who played Tuesday night in Chicago, were hurt by a slow start that included 10 first-half turnovers. Yao, unable to hold his own in the paint against Haywood, made just 3 of 9 shots and finished with 11 points.

Hughes was injured when hit by Quentin Richardson in a drive to the paint during the win over the Suns. The Wizards went 9-11 during his absence and found themselves relying too heavily on Arenas, who averaged 29.4 points over the 20 games. Hughes entered the game leading the league in steals per game (2.82), and he remained the only NBA player averaging more than 20 points (21.2), five rebounds (6.1), five assists (5.3) and 2.5 steals.

Hughes' return came not a moment too soon for other reasons. Forwards Jarvis Hayes and Jared Jeffries both missed the game with knee injuries, and guard Juan Dixon is on the injured list with a sprained ankle.

The Wizards opened the third quarter with a 12-2 run, pulling ahead 57-40 on Haywood's hook shot over Yao. The Rockets finally came to life near the end of the period, when McGrady and James made 3-pointers in an 8-0 run that tied the game.

Jon Barry made a 3-pointer and a reverse layup to give the Rockets an 87-79 lead with six minutes remaining, but Arenas soon responded with the first six points in the run that put the Wizards back in front.

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