By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 8, 2007; E01
TORONTO, Jan. 7 -- With the outcome seemingly decided and his team being outplayed in every way, Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan was still pacing his team's bench area in the fourth quarter Sunday, exhorting his players on the court -- most of them starters -- to apply full-court pressure, to sprint back on defense and to continue attacking the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors won, 116-111, to hand the Wizards (19-14) only their third loss since Dec. 9, but Jordan's team put a scare into the crowd at Air Canada Centre with a late push that sliced a 22-point fourth quarter deficit to single digits and kept the crowd of 17,981 from filing out early to enjoy an unseasonably warm Toronto afternoon.
In the midst of a 41-point fourth quarter, Washington's last best chance came and went with 1 minute 34 seconds remaining. Trailing 110-101, the Wizards forced a turnover and took a timeout to set up a play. Gilbert Arenas rolled off a screen and ran to the corner but Toronto guard Anthony Parker stayed with him and Arenas's difficult three-point attempt came up short.
Arenas finished with 33 points but did most of his damage from the free throw line, where he made 17 of 21 attempts. Arenas got off to a slow start and wound up making 7 of 19 shots, including 2 of 7 three-point attempts.
Arenas, Caron Butler (24 points, eight rebounds) and Antawn Jamison (17 points, 14 rebounds) each missed more shots than they made and the Raptors rode a balanced attack in which six players scored in double figures, led by all-star forward Chris Bosh, who finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists.
"They were just the better team today," Jordan said. "We did the best we could to get some pressure going up and down the court, and for a stretch there I thought our pressure was good, but we just couldn't handle Chris Bosh and when we double-teamed him, he found the open man. That's a good roster and a well-coached team."
League rules dictate that some team is going to have to win the Atlantic Division and right now the first-place Raptors (15-19) are the leading candidates.
With two 7-foot centers -- Rasho Nesterovic and Andrea Bargnani -- a 6-10 power forward in Bosh and a 6-9 small forward in Jorge Garbajosa, the Raptors have one of the NBA's tallest front lines, and that size gave the smaller Wizards plenty of problems.
Toronto's ball movement was crisp all night (27 assists), and while building a 31-22 first-quarter lead, the Raptors held a 9-2 advantage in second-chance points and a 14-6 edge in points in the paint. The Wizards showed some life when Arenas closed the first half by pulling up in transition and making a three-pointer from 35 feet as time expired.
It was the 10th time this season that Arenas made a shot with less than three seconds remaining in a quarter, half or game. The basket trimmed Toronto's lead to 57-51 and seemed to portend good things for the Wizards, but Toronto opened the second half strong, scoring on its first three possessions and outscoring the Wizards 27-19 in the quarter.
"The shots weren't falling and we weren't getting stops and that was the game tonight," said Arenas, who finished with 30 or more points for the 18th time on the season (the Wizards are 16-2 in those games).
"The last four years, I don't think we've ever played well in a one o'clock game. In the NBA that is a weird time, especially for your body because it is usually your practice time and one o'clock practices, you know how that goes."
The Raptors had no such problems with the early start and shot 50 percent for the second consecutive game while improving to 10-5 at home. Coach Sam Mitchell, who is in the final season of his contract and is facing pressure to get the young Raptors into the postseason for the first time since 2002, wasn't interested in dissecting Washington's late push following the win.
"Why are you all shaking your heads?" Mitchell asked to open his postgame media session. "We won a game against a good team. I don't know what made you all so upset but I'm happy. Hey, we made some mistakes down the stretch but our guys won the game against a team that's been playing extremely well."