WASHINGTON – Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards brought their hot start home Saturday night, with Arenas scoring 30 points and Antawn Jamison adding 17 of his 23 in the second half in an 87-79 victory over the Orlando Magic.

Arenas and Jamison scored 10 points in a 12-0 run late in the third quarter that put the Wizards ahead for good, and Washington held on in a sloppy but close fourth quarter in which both teams shot poorly from the field and missed opportunities to take control.

The Wizards, playing their home opener after their first playoff appearance in eight years, improved to 3-0 for the first time since the 1978-79 season, which was also the last time they played in the NBA Finals. The Magic, yet to find their shooting touch in the young season, shot 31 percent are 0-3 for the first time since starting 0-6 in 1990-91.

Jamison also grabbed 13 rebounds, including two big ones in the final minute. The Wizards would have won with some ease if they hadn’t missed 13 of 37 free throws. They entered the game in the bottom five in the league in free-throw percentage.

Dwight Howard had 17 points and 11 rebounds, Steve Francis scored 16 points, and Hedo Turkoglu had 15 for the Magic. DeShawn Stevenson had 13, but Orlando shot 10-for-41 from the field in the second half, including 4-for-20 in the fourth quarter.

Francis made it close when he hit a 3-pointer with 2:02 remaining to pull the Magic to 81-79, but Orlando didn’t score again. Francis missed two free throws with 56 seconds left, and the Wizards closed out the victory by going 4-for-6 from the line in the final minute.

The talents of Arenas and Howard kept the game watchable in an often ragged evening. Howard made an acrobatic move to grab an offensive rebound on the right side of the basket and rose on the left side for powerful one-handed dunk in the first quarter. Arenas was a blur as he threw down a one-hander in the second quarter.

But both teams had lulls. The Wizards went more than five minutes without a field goal after Arenas’ highlight dunk, but the best the Magic could do during that span was take a seven-point lead. The Wizards fumbled the ball clumsily during their last possession of the half, but Arenas was finally able to control it and toss in a 3-pointer with half-a-second left to cut Orlando’s lead to 42-40 at the break.

The Wizards stayed cold to open the third, failing to score on their first six possessions. Francis and Howard hooked up for a nice alley-oop for the Magic, and Turkoglu’s 3-pointer put Orlando ahead by nine.

But the Magic did little after that. Jamison and Arenas had their quarter-ending run, which included back-to-back 3-pointers, to put the Wizards ahead 65-61 going into the fourth. Orlando shot 29 percent in the quarter.

The Magic started 0-for-9 from the field in the fourth quarter, relying solely on free throws until Stevenson’s baseline drive with 5:05 to play.

Notes: Wizards G Antonio Daniels sprained his left ankle in the third quarter and did not return. … Coming off their first playoff appearance in eight years, the Wizards gave themselves the red carpet treatment during the pregame ceremony. The starters struck poses as they rose one at a time amid smoke on a movable platform in front of a replica of the Washington Monument, then walked down a red carpet through a pair of faux Roman columns and onto the court. Arenas, waving his warmup jersey as he trundled down the steps, received the loudest ovation. He also addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support in last year’s postseason run. “We wanted to keep it going this year,” he said. … Wizards F Caron Butler missed his second straight game with a bruised thigh. … The Wizards failed to sell out their home opener a year ago, but this time the 20,173-seat MCI Center was full.

AP-ES-11-05-05 2233EST


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