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Arenas Gives an All-Star Showing

Guard Is Dazzling With 43 Points: Wizards 108, Pacers 104

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 8, 2005; Page D01

Washington Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan had an easy explanation for how his team was able to outlast the Indiana Pacers for a 108-104 victory last night.

"The Princeton offense," Jordan joked.

Gilbert Arenas (15-of-28 shooting, 9 rebounds) drives to the basket on the Pacers' Scot Pollard. Arenas scored 16 points in the fourth quarter. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

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Forward-center Kwame Brown (right ankle inflammation) has removed the protective boot from his right foot and was shooting in sneakers before the Wizards played the Pacers last night.

"I can do toe lifts . . . but I can't jump yet," Brown said. "By the end of the week, I hope I can start jumping again."

Brown has been on the injured list since Jan. 12 and isn't expected to return until after the all-star break, possibly in March. The foot "feels good, feels a lot better," said Brown, who is averaging 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in just 14 games this season.

"I think we're being a little more cautious now, which is a good thing," Brown said.

Brown will be a restricted free agent this summer and said he felt he rushed back too soon, which led to complications in his foot. He had offseason surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot suffered last summer. . . .

With forward Etan Thomas getting almost one-third of his total points (72) this season in just one game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, Coach Eddie Jordan isn't expecting that kind of production every night. Thomas had 23 points and eight rebounds against the Bucks, giving Jordan plenty of reason to be optimistic after the fourth-year player had missed most of the season with an abdominal strain.

"He's just a competitor. He was our guts and glory guy last year and he hasn't lost any of that," Jordan said. "We said it's going to take some time. We have to be patient. You hang in there. You keep him in the rotation."

Thomas said he had to stay positive while working himself back.

"An injury is something that is unfortunate, but there is really nothing that you can do about it," Thomas said. "I definitely can't feel sorry for myself. I just have to keep fighting and working hard, which is something that I am not afraid to do." . . .

Indiana guard Reggie Miller has more years of experience (17) than the Wizards' starting five combined. Antawn Jamison (six seasons), Gilbert Arenas (three), Brendan Haywood (three), Jared Jeffries (two) and Jarvis Hayes (one) have played a total of 15 seasons in the NBA.

-- Michael Lee

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Jordan had to be kidding, because in the fourth quarter he scrapped the motion and cutting and simply gave the ball to Gilbert Arenas, letting the point guard circle around stumbling Indiana defenders for layups and long-range jumpers on his way to a matching a career high with 43 points.

And whenever the "Arenas offense" wasn't working, forward Antawn Jamison filled the gaps with his creative jump shots and hooks.

The coach's ballots for NBA all-star reserves were already submitted before Arenas and Jamison hit the floor at MCI Center, but both players solidified their cases to make their respective debuts in the Feb. 20 game in Denver.

"It means a lot. Every player wants to make the all-star team," said Arenas, 23, who added nine rebounds and six assists. "I was a second-round pick, I shouldn't even be close to being mentioned as an all-star. But I am."

"You pour in 43, it's pretty much a lock," Jamison said of Arenas's all-star chances. Arenas scored 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Wizards (28-19) won for the 10th time in 12 home games.

Jamison added 24 points, with six coming in the fourth quarter, including an underhanded scoop shot that broke a tie at 100 with 1 minute 27 seconds left.

All-star reserves will be announced today. Arenas was asked if Jamison should be among them.

"Yes, of course," Arenas said. "Larry [Hughes] should be voted in, too."

Hughes broke his right thumb on Jan. 15 and isn't expected to return until after the all-star break. "He can . . . play anyway," Arenas said before chuckling.

The Wizards have had only three all-stars in the past 10 seasons -- Juwan Howard, Chris Webber and Michael Jordan -- but Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle said yesterday that the team is deserving of at least two this season.

"If it happens, it's one of my greatest accomplishments," Jamison said. "If not, we still have a task here, to win some more games and try and get to the playoffs. To come into this situation, have some success and have an opportunity to be on an all-star team, you couldn't write a better script."

The Wizards beat the Pacers, 95-93, in Indiana on Jan. 22 when Jamison hit a running hook shot off the glass with four-tenths of a second remaining. Last night it was all Arenas.

"He is a great player and has been lighting everybody up the first half of the year," Carlisle said. "He is one of those guys that can just make plays."

The Wizards trailed 89-81 after Pacers guard Fred Jones hit a driving layup with 9:57 remaining, but they stormed back with an 11-4 run. Jarvis Hayes (10 points) and Steve Blake hit back-to-back three-pointers, then forward Michael Ruffin blocked Jones's layup attempt right to Blake, who fed Arenas. Arenas then drove inside, missed a jumper and fought off Indiana big men Jermaine O'Neal and Jeff Foster for his own rebound and follow to tie the game with 8:23 left.

Arenas and Jamison would combine to score the next 17 points for the Wizards. But after O'Neal (30 points) hit a jumper to bring the Pacers to within 106-104 with 31 seconds, Arenas missed a 17-footer 23 seconds later. Jones got the inbounds for the Pacers, but he fell to the ground and lost the ball to Juan Dixon (11 points), who sealed the game with two free throws.

Arenas said he wasn't worried about missing the jumper late. "If they did tie it," he said, "I was going to go down and win it anyway. It really didn't matter."

That kind of confidence makes it easy for Jordan to turn the game over to Arenas in the fourth quarter.

"I guess everybody in this room would feel the same way," Jordan said. "If you were up here, wouldn't you be this confident? Yes, you would."

Pacers forward Stephen Jackson had his best game since returning from his 30-game suspension for fighting Detroit Pistons fans in November, scoring a season-high 29 points. But the Pacers (22-25) are just 1-7 with him back in the lineup.

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