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'The Worst Loss of the Season'

Arenas Tossed, Wizards Blow 22-Point Lead: Raptors 103, Wizards 100

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 5, 2005; Page D01

TORONTO, Feb. 4 -- As Toronto Raptors guard Jalen Rose stood on the scorer's table, triumphantly gesturing toward the fans to make more noise with 28 seconds left, the Washington Wizards sat on their bench with dejected looks. Some players stared toward the clock to see how much time remained, while others looked toward Coach Eddie Jordan as he drew up the next play. It didn't matter what Jordan said. Their body language said it all.

A team noted for its comeback ability had the script flipped on it Friday night, as the Wizards blew a 22-point second-half lead, had their starting point guard ejected, and then lost their composure before dropping the game, 103-100, at Air Canada Center.

Raptors' Jalen Rose (26 points) stands on the scorer's table to rev up the crowd at Air Canada Center in the final seconds of the Wizards' debacle. (J. P. Moczulski -- Reuters)

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"The way we had this game, it has to be the worst loss of the season," guard Jarvis Hayes said after the Wizards (26-19) lost their fourth in a row. "There is no excuse for this loss."

Forward Antawn Jamison led four players in double figures with 30 points -- the most since he scored 34 in the season opener against Memphis -- but the Wizards were unable to make up for the loss of Gilbert Arenas, who was tossed with 4 minutes 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The game had begun to slip away before Arenas was ejected, but it got completely out of hand in the end, as the Raptors outscored the Wizards 44-26 the rest of the way.

The Wizards' breakdown was their worst of the season, eclipsing a 19-point collapse against Detroit on Dec. 29.

Arenas had dominated most of Friday night, hitting eight of his first nine shots and scoring 21 points with four assists. But after Rose (26 points) sank a driving layup to cut the Wizards' lead to 74-59, Arenas explained that he mouthed off to official Bill Kennedy about what he felt were two blown calls on the other end. Fifteen seconds later, Arenas said, he grabbed the ball, slapped it with both hands and Kennedy hit him with a technical foul.

In frustration, Arenas threw the ball at Kennedy's feet and walked away. After the ball bounced and hit Kennedy's leg, Kennedy gave Arenas another technical, which is an automatic ejection.

"I was shocked I got a tech," said Arenas, who became the first Wizard to get ejected this season. "Give me a technical for at least cussing. Let me say one bad word, I can do that. Don't give me a technical for slapping the ball hard."

Jordan pleaded with Kennedy for an explanation, to no avail. "Apparently, he didn't like what Gilbert said or did and he just decided to make the decision to toss him out," Jordan said. When the smoke cleared, Jordan stood alone on the court, yelling at no one in particular and Arenas had already tossed his jersey into the stands on the way to the locker room.

"I think it hurt us a lot," Arenas said of his ejection. "Excuse my French, but we were beating the [stuffing] out of them."

With Arenas gone, the Wizards still led 92-81 when guard Anthony Peeler made a three-pointer from the right corner with 5:49 left. The lead was just 98-94 when Juan Dixon hit a tough jumper, but the Wizards went without a field goal for the final 2:06.

Clinging to a one-point lead with 80 seconds left, Peeler grabbed an offensive rebound, but Dixon (15 points) lost the ball to Rose, who was fouled and sank two free throws to give the Raptors a 99-98 lead -- their first since the score was 2-0.

"We had a 13-, 14-point lead and we cannot win without Gilbert, then we're not as good as we think we are," said Jamison, who recorded his 18th double-double of the season with 11 rebounds. "We really got to be upset with ourselves -- especially myself. I just didn't get it done. We didn't get the defensive stops. That's what killed us."

The Raptors had come back from a 19-point deficit two nights before to defeat the Indiana Pacers, 98-97, but they tied a franchise record for the largest comeback in franchise history to end a six-game losing streak against the Wizards. Raptors point guard Rafer Alston, playing his first game since serving a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, scored all 16 of his points in the second half. Rose had 16 second-half points and Donyell Marshall scored 11 of his 20 in the second half, including a three-pointer from the left corner with 28 seconds left to clinch the victory.

The Wizards will try to regroup Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, but they are sliding fast. "This one definitely hurts," Jamison said. "We're at a low point, but it's not going to last long. We're going to be all right. I've still got a smile on my face. We've got a game [tonight]. We'll try to stop the bleeding a little bit."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company