By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 18, 2006; E01
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 17 -- When it was finished and Gilbert Arenas had set a franchise record by scoring 60 points and beating the team he once dreamed of playing for, the Washington Wizards guard stopped near midcourt at Staples Center and took a bow.
It was a fitting end to a sublime performance.
In a game that was slipping away from the Wizards, who watched a 17-point fourth-quarter lead eventually evaporate when Brian Cook tied the game and forced overtime with a three-pointer, Arenas saved his team by scoring 31 points during the fourth quarter and overtime while leading the Wizards to a 147-141 overtime victory Sunday night in front of a sellout crowd of 18,997.
The last Wizard to score 50 points in a game was Michael Jordan, who scored 51 on Dec. 29, 2001, against the Charlotte Hornets, and the previous franchise high was held by Earl Monroe, who scored 56 in an overtime win over the Lakers in 1968.
"It's a great feeling because all of my friends are Kobe Bryant fans," said Arenas, who grew up in Los Angeles and hosted around 75 friends and family Sunday night. "It's just a great feeling."
Arenas's final line shows that he hurt the Lakers in just about every way possible. He made 17 of 32 shots overall and 5 of 12 three-pointers, including a huge one in overtime that gave the Wizards a five-point lead with 57 seconds remaining, and also made 21 of 27 free throw attempts.
"I was just mad at myself for missing so many free throws," said Arenas, who set an NBA record by scoring 16 overtime points. "I looked at the sheet and it said I missed six but it felt like I missed 20."
Arenas has now scored at least 40 points in a NBA-high five games this season and scored at least 30 in six of the last seven games. Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler -- already the highest-scoring trio in the league -- combined to score 112 points Sunday night.
The Wizards have won eight of their last 10 games and opened a four-game trip that continues Monday night at Denver in style, beating the Lakers in Los Angeles for only the second time since 1991-92.
Arenas's heroics were needed on a night when Washington's lead hovered around double figures throughout the second half before the Lakers mounted a strong comeback in the final minutes.
The big play came when Bryant drove and made a layup while drawing a foul on Jamison and completed the three-point play by making the free throw, drawing the Lakers to 125-123 with 24 seconds remaining. After DeShawn Stevenson made 1 of 2 free throws, Cook caught a pass from Bryant, pump-faked and then made a three-pointer, tying the game with 5.7 seconds remaining.
Arenas had a chance to make the game-winner but his attempted jumper over Bryant was long and the game went to overtime. Bryant, who scored a season-high 53 points in Friday's win over Houston, led the Lakers with 45 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds but his individual brilliance wasn't enough to handle Arenas and the Wizards.
Bryant was on the receiving end of some of Arenas's biggest plays. On one key overtime possession, Butler dribbled the ball up the floor and Arenas, reading that Bryant was overplaying the passing lane, cut backdoor and took a bounce pass from Butler.
He made a difficult layup while drawing a foul on Andrew Bynum and made the free throw, giving the Wizards a 139-137 lead. In overtime, Arenas made 5 of 6 shots including two three-pointers, and was 6 of 6 from the free throw line.
Jamison added 25 points for the Wizards on 8-of-18 shooting while grabbing a team-high 13 rebounds and Butler scored 27 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Before the game, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson talked about how difficult it is defending the Wizards, who have been clicking offensively for two weeks now.
"This day and age in the NBA it's real difficult to find teams with three players who can do that," Jackson said. "Dallas has three. You might get three guys who step up on a given night in San Antonio, but this group, they're really impressive. They're very aggressive with scoring and they have a great offense that works with those real aggressive scorers. They play their defense to get out and run and that makes it difficult to guard them on any particular part of the floor."