In Hot Streak, Arenas Has Words for Bryant

By Jack Magruder
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 24, 2006

PHOENIX, Dec. 23 -- Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas appears to have adopted a new shooting mantra. For the time being, anyway, he said he has stopped saying "hibachi" when his jump shot is in mid-flight even though, as teammate Caron Butler said Friday, "Once he starts saying that, I know it's money."

Now Arenas claims to utter the phrase "quality shots," a tweak at Kobe Bryant's petulant criticism following Arenas's 60-point game against Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers last Sunday.

"Ever since Kobe said I was lucky, I say 'quality shots,' " Arenas said with a grin and a twinkle in his eye after scoring 54 points in the Wizards' 144-139 overtime victory over Phoenix before 18,422 at U.S. Airlines Center on Friday.

"Maybe Kobe would say that was luck. It's luck when you score 30 or 40, but luck can't get you 50 or 60. Every game before the game, I make 10 threes from 10 spots on the court. That's 100 threes."

Arenas made an old-fashioned three-point play with 20 seconds remaining in regulation, finger-rolling an eight-foot bank shot into the hoop after absorbing contact by Shawn Marion and sinking the ensuing free throw to send the game into overtime tied at 127.

Butler added eight of his 34 points and Arenas banked in a three in the final 64 seconds of overtime.

Overall, the Wizards won for the 10th time in 13 games while breaking the Suns' franchise-record and NBA season-high 15-game winning streak.

Arenas made 21 of 37 field goal attempts, including 6 of 12 three-point attempts, to go with four assists and three steals while breaking Bryant's U.S. Airways record of 51 points, set April 7, 2006.

The Suns tried guards Steve Nash and Raja Bell and Marion, a forward, on Arenas, using Marion most of the second half and overtime.

Yet none hindered Arenas. He had an evenly spaced 54 points -- 17, 7, 14, 11 and 5, by periods.

"When you are on fire, you are on fire," Arenas said.

After being asked to leave the USA Basketball training camp this summer with a purported groin injury, Arenas had vowed to score 100 points in his two games against Phoenix and Portland this season. Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni and Trailblazers Coach Nate McMillan were assistants on the Team USA staff.

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