Wizards' Victory Is Free, Not Easy
Thursday, January 26, 2006
BOSTON, Jan. 25 -- The only differences were the uniforms, the building and the referees.
The ending to the Washington Wizards' 89-87 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night was so oddly similar to the teams' first meeting this season, New England native Stephen King could have authored it.
The Wizards (19-21) won that first meeting, 103-102 at MCI Center on Jan. 7, when Gilbert Arenas drew a foul on Paul Pierce in the closing seconds and then calmly made a pair of free throws to put the game away. On Wednesday night at TD Banknorth Garden, with the score tied at 87, Arenas had the ball in his hands with 17.5 seconds remaining and was working one-on-one against Celtics guard Ricky Davis from the top of the key.
Arenas drove to his left, crossed the ball over to his right hand, slid past Davis into the lane and elevated near the basket, where he was met by center Kendrick Perkins. Arenas didn't get a clean shot off, but Davis was whistled by referee Luis Grillo for reaching in as Arenas went by him. After a quick video review to determine how much time remained, Arenas stepped to the line and made both free throws with 1.7 seconds remaining.
"I had Caron [Butler] on my left, Antawn [Jamison] on my right, so I just pushed Ricky left and came back to my right so I would have that whole right side to go down the middle," said Arenas, who finished with 19 points on 7-of-21 shooting. "They got Ricky for the reach-in. I thought they were going to double-team me, so I was planning on passing it and then trying to get back. Then they just let me go one-on-one."
After double-teaming Arenas for most of the fourth quarter, Boston Coach Doc Rivers said he never considered sending a second player at Arenas on the final play, believing "you just have to play defense."
Following Arenas's free throws, Pierce got a decent look at a potential game-winning three-pointer but Butler ran at him and appeared to cause Pierce to hesitate on his shot from the corner. The ball was on line but fell short. Pierce finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds but missed four free throws in the fourth quarter.
"[Boston] went for the dagger; [Pierce] went for the win," said Butler, who was matched up against Pierce for most of the game and finished with seven rebounds and four points on 2-of-12 shooting. "It was the same type of thing as the first game except tonight, they changed up the play to get him open. He looped around to the corner and got a good look. I just tried to swipe at him and make him take a tough shot."
Center Brendan Haywood scored a season-high 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, with seven rebounds, and Jamison scored 26 points and made 4 of 5 three-point attempts to lead the Wizards, who were opening a difficult stretch that continues Friday at Chicago and concludes Saturday back at MCI Center against Charlotte.
The Celtics (17-25) were two games behind Washington for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings entering the game and had won four straight over the Wizards at home.
The teams took turns building and then losing fourth-quarter leads. Boston led by seven following a Pierce turnaround jumper with 4 minutes 12 seconds remaining, but the next three Celtics possessions ended with two turnovers and an offensive foul. The Wizards went on a 9-0 run that featured a three-point play by Jamison and a flagrant foul on Boston's Raef LaFrentz as Jamison went up for a fast-break layup. Arenas capped the run with a long jump shot to put the Wizards ahead 85-81 with 2:20 remaining, but Pierce scored the next six points.
Jamison, who scored 16 fourth-quarter points, made a pair of free throws to tie the game at 87 and with 52 seconds remaining, Pierce missed two free throws. After the Wizards failed to secure the rebound, the Celtics turned over the ball and the Wizards called a timeout to set up the final play for Arenas.
"He's one of the best in the league at getting the last shot, creating a foul," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "He can drive. He can pull up. We've seen that in the playoffs. So it's always good to have the ball in his hands for the last shot."