Wizards 107, Nuggets 97

Al Thornton was weary.

He arrived in Washington at 2 a.m., watched his new team at

shootaround Friday morning, and after a few hours of sleep, scored

21 points in the Wizards’ 107-97 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Thornton’s offense was welcome, and his defense on Carmelo

Anthony was sublime.

“I just tried to make him frustrated,” Thornton said. “When

he gets in a groove, it’s tough to stop him. It’s been a knock on

me at times that I don’t play any defense.”

Denver, fresh off a thrilling overtime win over Cleveland on

Thursday night, lost for just the third time this season when

holding a third-quarter lead. Washington’s win was surprising, and

for the new faces in the Wizards’ locker room, refreshing.

Thornton was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in the

Antawn Jamison deal Wednesday, and Josh Howard, starting for the

first time since being acquired on Feb. 13 from Dallas, spearheaded

a spirited fourth-quarter rally.

At the shootaround, Washington coach Flip Saunders was seemingly

excited over the team’s extreme makeover and delivered a unique pep

talk.

“We’ve got to play like a bunch of mad dogs,” he told them.

“That’s how we played tonight. We went after loose balls,

rebounded. We didn’t give up on plays. The crowd gets into it, the

guys get juiced up.”

The Wizards won for the second straight time since their

changes, and erased an 82-73 deficit after three. The Nuggets

seemed to have the game in hand until coach George Karl decided to

rest Anthony and Chauncey Billups to start the fourth.

Washington outscored Denver 34-15 in the fourth quarter as

Thornton held Anthony scoreless. Anthony, who scored 40 against the

Cavaliers, missed all five of his shots. He didn’t return until

there was 5:35 to play.

Anthony entered as the NBA’s third-leading scorer, averaging

28.5 points.

“I missed shots,” Anthony said. “Shots that I made (Thursday)

night, I didn’t make tonight.”

Howard had 20 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. His

most memorable moment came slightly off the court. With about four

minutes to play, Howard chased a loose ball and landed in the laps

of some of the front-row spectators. He spilled some of their beers

and caused a two-minute delay as the court was wiped off.

“I think those fans enjoyed that, and hopefully, they’ll come

back for me,” Howard said.

Pint-sized point guard Earl Boykins helped mightily. The

5-foot-5 inch Boykins had nine of his 12 points in the fourth and

three rebounds.

Karl blamed the loss on his team’s refusal to share.

“We have a selfish disposition at times,” he said. “Sometimes

it might come from fatigue, sometimes it might come from

complacency. Can’t beat anybody with 12 assists. It’s just a

joke.

“We should be much more mature and understand that if that’s

the way we are going to try and beat people, we are going to have

nights like tonight.”

NOTES: Denver F-C Chris Andersen missed the game with back

spasms. Karl said he’s day-to-day. … Zydrunas Ilgauskas, acquired

from Cleveland on Wednesday in the Jamison trade, reported to the

Wizards, took his physical, but was inactive. Ilgauskas, reportedly

seeking a buyout, will not travel to Toronto for Saturday’s game

against the Raptors. … Gilbert Arenas is suspended for the season

for bringing guns to the locker room and isn’t allowed to practice

with the team, but one of his practice jerseys is hanging in his

cubicle for the first time since the suspension. On Thursday, team

president Ernie Grunfeld said Arenas would play again for

Washington. … Howard denounced an ESPN.com report that while with

Dallas, he’d missed a game against the Wizards on Jan. 20 with a

hangover. “I’m not responding to a lie,” he said. … Two nights

after scoring a career-high 33 points, Wizards F Andray Blatche had

18 in the first half and was scoreless in the second half.