Wednesday , Jan , 18 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Francis returns as Magic top Wizards

Orlando, FL (Sports Network) – Orlando guard Steve Francis marked his return
to action after being suspended two games with a 12-point, eight-rebound and
seven-assist performance to help the Magic to their fifth straight home
victory, 106-98, over Washington.

“We desperately needed a win, and for me, it was great,” Francis said. “After
a week of not playing, shooting by myself with some of my people who help me
play basketball, it was good to get out on the court with my teammates and
play ball.”

Jameer Nelson netted 22 points and DeShawn Stevenson scored 19 for Orlando,
but the focus was on Francis. He was suspended last Thursday for conduct
detrimental to the team and sat out losses to Portland and Sacramento that
closed out the Magic’s four-game west coast road trip. Francis did not start,
and converted 2-of-7 shots in 31 minutes.

“Steve looked like, I think, the Steve Francis that you guys were used to
watching last year and that we anticipate,” Magic coach Brian Hill said. “He
was aggressive, he was attacking, he did a good job defensively.”

Tony Battie posted 14 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando, which won for just
the second time in its last nine games.

Antawn Jamison tied a season-high with 30 points and pulled down 12 rebounds
for Washington, which had its four-game winning streak broken. Gilbert Arenas
added 21 points, Caron Butler scored 18, and Antonio Daniels notched 17 in the
loss for the Wizards.

Orlando, which stopped its four-game losing streak, led early until Jamison
scored his seventh straight point to tie the game at 16 for Washington with
4:46 on the clock. The run sparked the Wizards to a 27-23 lead after one
quarter. Washington retained control through the second period to earn a 51-44
halftime lead.

Washington let its early lead gradually dwindle in the third quarter and a
Battie follow jam gave Orlando a 66-64 lead.

“I thought we played okay, but they stole the momentum right from the third
quarter and just kept it going and we couldn’t catch up to them,” Wizards
coach Eddie Jordan said.

With a 73-69 lead going into the fourth, Orlando maintained the advantage
throughout the last stanza. Butler intercepted an errant pass by Nelson,
which Jamison converted into a three-point play to narrow the deficit to 90-85
with 4:18 to go. That was as close as the Wizards came.

The Magic responded with the next six points on baskets from Hedo Turkoglu,
Nelson and Battie, whose slam made it 96-85 with 2:04 remaining.

Game Notes

Orlando is 10-9 as the host this season…This was the third meeting of the
season between the clubs and the teams split the two previous contests, as
each squad picked up a victory on its home court…The home team has won 13 of
the last 17 meetings in this series. Washington has lost 17 of its last 19 at
Orlando…The Wizards and guard Chucky Atkins agreed to a contract buyout on
Wednesday…Jamison scored his 10,000th career point on a jumper assisted by
Arenas with 5:26 left in the third quarter, a milestone that marks Jamison as
the 34th active player to achieve the feat.

WAS ORL