Proving that he wasn't satisfied with making his first all-star team -- and that the Washington Wizards have more than Gilbert Arenas to offer in the fourth quarter -- forward Antawn Jamison responded with his best game in a Wizards uniform last night. On a night when Arenas struggled with his shooting, Jamison carried the load, scoring 14 of his season-high 35 points in the final period as the Wizards beat the San Antonio Spurs, 95-87, last night at MCI Center.
"We all know our roles," said Jamison, who added 11 rebounds to record his 19th double-double of the season. "If Coach says, 'Let's see what Gilbert can do, we'll do that.' Tonight, I was feeling it a little bit."
Gilbert Arenas scores on a layup to put the Wizards ahead of the Spurs 53-52 in the 3rd quarter, a lead they did not relinquish.
(Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)
With the victory, the Wizards (29-19) possess the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and became one of just two teams with wins this season against San Antonio, Phoenix and Seattle -- the teams with the three best records in the league. The Utah Jazz has also accomplished the feat.
The Wizards also snapped a four-game losing streak against the Spurs (39-11), who were playing their second consecutive game without Tim Duncan (sprained right ankle).
"With Tim Duncan out this time, it may have made it a little bit easier, but that's a good team with or without Duncan," said Arenas, who scored 24 points despite missing 19 of 28 shots.
Arenas will be joining Jamison in Denver for the All-Star Game on Feb. 20 and he didn't go without making his presence felt in the end. With less than a minute remaining, Arenas drove inside and missed a shot, but reserve forward Michael Ruffin tipped the offensive rebound to himself and kicked it back out to Arenas.
As the crowd rose to its feet, Arenas held the ball at his hip, then made a quick move and made an 18-foot jumper over Tony Parker with 32 seconds left to give the Wizards a 90-84 lead, Arenas then stepped in front Spurs forward Malik Rose (19 points), who was starting in place of Duncan, and took a charge on the other end of the floor to secure the win.
"We heard the criticism of our defense, and maybe that's fair, so we knew this was something we had to focus on," Arenas said after the Wizards improved to 16-1 when they hold their opponents below 100 points.
The Wizards blocked a season-high 10 shots, with Ruffin and Etan Thomas having three apiece off the bench. "That was one of the points of emphasis. Coach wanted to us to control the paint on the defensive end. That's what we tried to do," said Thomas, who added four points.
Ruffin had eight rebounds, snagging three from the offensive glass in the fourth quarter alone. "That's what I try to do," Ruffin said. "I'm always going to do the little things to help the team win."
Parker scored 13 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter for the Spurs, who lost for the first time in six games. After Parker hit a three-pointer to bring the Spurs within 79-77 with 4 minutes 26 seconds left, Jamison came back with a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Wizards a five-point lead.
"When he's hitting the three-point shot, along with driving the basketball, he is a handful," Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said about Jamison, who shot 14 of 24 from the floor, including 3 of 6 from beyond the three-point line.
Considering how miserable his team looked the last time they faced the San Antonio Spurs -- when the Wizards scored a season-low 73 points and were blown out by 28 -- Coach Eddie Jordan set the bar extremely low for the rematch at MCI Center last night. When Jamison made a 13-foot jumper to give the Wizards a 4-2 lead in the first quarter, Jordan turned to his assistants on the bench and said, "We're a lot better than we were in San Antonio."
The Wizards eventually fell behind by 11 points in the first quarter, but for the 10th time this season, the Wizards came back from a double-digit deficit to win. In their first meeting on Jan. 17, the Wizards had just received the news about guard Larry Hughes's broken right thumb and they played like a confused bunch, falling behind 21-2.
By the end of last night's game, Jordan had more reason to be pleased. The Wizards improved to 7-6 since Hughes's injury. "We want to be like the San Antonio Spurs, in a sense," Jordan said. "They execute, they play together."