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In a Zone, Arenas Has Time

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Antawn Jamison was being closely defended by Carlos Boozer on the Washington Wizards' final possession of Monday afternoon's game against the Utah Jazz, and watched in amazement as Boozer failed to take even a single step in the direction of Gilbert Arenas as Arenas dribbled at the top of the key.

"He never moved," Jamison said of Boozer. "I guess they decided to just man up and try to stop him one-on-one. I mean, the way he's going right now, you have to make him make a pass or something."

Arenas burned the Jazz by pulling up and making a three-pointer over the outstretched hand of Deron Williams as time expired.

He similarly beat the Milwaukee Bucks by dribbling up the floor and making a 32-foot three-pointer over a flat-footed Charlie Bell at Verizon Center on Jan. 3. Like Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan, Bucks Coach Terry Stotts elected not to double-team Arenas and wound up paying for it.

Arenas has made five game-winning shots in his career, and this season he's made 11 shots with less than three seconds remaining in a quarter, half or game. Eight of those shots have come from three-point range.

Sloan considered using several different defenders but chose to go with Williams on Arenas instead of double-teaming him. "I considered a lot of things," Sloan said. "Probably should have done that."

Sloan was a hard-nosed defender during his 11-season NBA career but is amazed as anyone at Arenas's combination of quickness, strength and shooting range.

"He even looks at guys' feet when they drop their head down and before they pick their head up, he's shooting in their face or beating them off the dribble," Sloan said. "He has tremendous quickness. I don't know too many guys in the league that have that kind of quickness, plus great range on his shot."

Butler was standing behind the three-point line to Arenas's left on the final play Monday and noticed his man, Matt Harpring, cheat over to help Williams. But by then it was too late.

The decision whether to double-team Arenas in such situations is complicated by the fact that, in Jamison and Caron Butler, the Wizards have two other players capable of making a big shot. Coach Eddie Jordan also had Jarvis Hayes on the floor at the end of Monday's game, and Hayes has shown no fear in taking shots at crucial moments.

Jordan was asked how he would handle Arenas if he were the opposing coach in an end-of-game situation.

"Would I double Gil?" Jordan asked. "That depends on your philosophy. If you can live with an open shot from a good shooter like Caron, Antawn or Jarvis, then that's your philosophy. But if you say, 'I want to live with a contested shot from a Gil, a Kobe Bryant or a Kevin Garnett,' then that's your philosophy."

So what would Jordan do?

"Gil's on my team, so I'm not giving any game plan away," Jordan said.

If tonight's game between the Wizards and New York Knicks comes down to a final possession, Jamison said he has an idea of what Knicks Coach Isiah Thomas will do.

"Gil's like Isiah was as a player, so I think he would double him," Jamison said. "He wouldn't let Gil beat him, not without trying to get the ball out his hands first."

The Knicks, meantime, are 17-22, but in the weak Atlantic Division, that record has them one game back of the New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors for first place. Monday's 102-97 home win over the Sacramento Kings gave the Knicks five victories in their last 10 games. It was sealed by New York's own clutch player, guard Jamal Crawford.

Crawford scored six points in the last 18 seconds and made a tough running shot over Kevin Martin to clinch the win.

The Knicks have been getting solid play in the post from center Eddy Curry, and former Wizard Jared Jeffries has fit in as a defensive role player since coming back from a wrist injury suffered during the preseason.

Tonight's game will be Jeffries's first at Verizon Center since Game 6 of last spring's first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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