For a Change, Wizards Win Battle of Backups
Wizards 113, Bulls 103
Thursday, January 11, 2007; Page E01
Gilbert Arenas is on the verge of NBA superstardom, but he remains a prankster at heart.
That's why, after being "held" to 20 points on 5-of-16 shooting during a 113-103 win over the Chicago Bulls at Verizon Center last night, Arenas opened his postgame comments this way: "The supporting cast did a good job tonight."
Antonio Daniels, who keyed the victory by coming off the bench to match a season high with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, overheard the comment one stall away and doubled over in laughter.
"Man, you're killing me," Daniels said. "Supporting cast. That's a new one."
Arenas was joking, but his point was a good one.
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said the contest would be decided by "the things that are not in the box score," but the final stat sheet was telling.
The Wizards (20-14) won for the 16th time in 21 games because six players scored in double figures and because their bench players outscored Chicago's reserves, 32-30, while helping Washington overcome a 20-6 third-quarter Chicago run. It was the first time Washington's reserves outscored an opponent's reserves since Nov. 17 against the Detroit Pistons.
The Bulls are one of the top rebounding teams in the league, but the Wizards matched them on the boards (40-40) and Washington turned 20 Chicago turnovers into 32 points. The Wizards also made 28 of 33 free throws and held an advantage in second-chance points (20-10).
Caron Butler led the way with another all-star-quality performance, scoring a team-high 26 points with 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals in 35 minutes, Antawn Jamison made four three-pointers en route to finishing with 18 points and nine rebounds, and DeShawn Stevenson played solid defense on Chicago's Ben Gordon and finished with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
The game turned late in the fourth quarter on a string of defensive plays made by the Wizards.
After Arenas made a difficult step-back jump shot over Kirk Hinrich, giving Washington a 91-82 lead, Chicago's next three possessions resulted in a missed jumper by Gordon, a turnover on a bad pass by Hinrich and a charging call on Ben Wallace that was the product of Daniels hustling his way into perfect defensive position.
Butler followed Daniels's big play by driving and making a tough runner off the backboard over Andres Nocioni, giving the Wizards a 14-point lead with 4 minutes 29 seconds remaining.
The win avenged an ugly 112-94 loss at Chicago on Dec. 2 and gave the Wizards seven straight victories at Verizon Center, where they are 14-3.
"It was a big-time game," said Butler, who has 14 games with at least 10 points and 10 rebounds this season. "The intensity was real high and it was physical and an emotional game. We got through it and got a key win. We needed this."
After falling behind 11-2 to open the game, the Wizards went on an 18-2 run and ended the first quarter by taking advantage of a bizarre sequence. After Hinrich made a three-pointer with 3.2 seconds remaining, Stevenson inbounded to Arenas, who was quickly contacted by Hinrich.
Arenas was about 90 feet away from the Washington basket but saw Hinrich reaching in and went into a shooting motion as Hinrich fouled him. Referee Violet Palmer called a shooting foul on Hinrich, awarding Arenas three free throws. Chicago Coach Scott Skiles exploded off the bench and was assessed a technical foul. Arenas made the technical foul free throw and all three attempts stemming from the Hinrich foul, giving the Wizards a 27-18 lead going into the second quarter.
Arenas's final line was not eye-popping, but he was energetic on defense all night and came up big when the Wizards needed it most. He made 3 of 5 fourth-quarter shots, including a three-pointer that gave Washington a 14-point lead with 3:08 to go.
"He ran the team," Jordan said. "And when he came back in, you knew he was going to seal the deal."