One Night Later, Ending Is Happier for Arenas and Wizards

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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 23, 2007

SEATTLE, March 22 -- For the second straight night, Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan watched his team struggle to beat a team that was playing without its best player. But there was one big difference between Tuesday night's two-point loss at Portland and Wednesday night's two-point win at Seattle: Gilbert Arenas.

As off as Arenas was in Portland -- he made 4 of 16 shots, scored 19 points and threw up a weak air ball on a shot that would have tied the game at the buzzer -- he was every bit as spectacular 24 hours later.

He poured in 42 points on 13-of-24 shooting. And when the moment came to win the game, Arenas delivered, driving the length of the court and bulling past Earl Watson before flipping in a difficult shot over Rashard Lewis and Chris Wilcox that kissed off the glass and through the basket for the sixth game-winning shot of his career.

After the shot went in, Arenas ripped off his jersey and laid it on the floor near the free throw line. The three-time all-star sounded like a wide-eyed kid when he explained the gesture.

"You know, I always dreamed about someone leaving a jersey on the court and having everybody run out and trample each other to get it; so I was trying to see if that would happen," Arenas said. "But I was the only person standing out there, so I was kind of disappointed."

Arenas's stunt fizzled because the stunned fans ringing the court at Key Arena froze and stared at the jersey while Arenas stood over it. After a few moments and with some encouragement from his date, one brave man eventually walked from his seat underneath the basket, got around a security guard and made a move for the jersey only to be foiled by the Sonics mascot, who snatched it off the floor in defiance.

"Mascots are getting crazy these days," Arenas said.

Arenas's latest game-winning shot saved the Wizards (37-29) from overtime and another potential crushing loss. They lead the Heat by one-half game in the Southeast Division and continue their five-game road trip Friday night at Golden State, where Arenas began his career.

The trip continues Saturday in Los Angeles against the Clippers and concludes Monday night at Utah.

Jordan obviously was happier about the outcome of Wednesday's game, but many of the problems that led to Tuesday's loss were on full display against Seattle.

Wilcox, the former Maryland star, dominated the lane and finished with 27 points and 22 rebounds. The Sonics finished with a 55-35 rebounding advantage and the Wizards had several defensive lapses that allowed a team that was playing without leading scorer Ray Allen to hang around and have a chance to win.

"It was good to see us come back from what happened to us [Tuesday night] and to play hard for 48 minutes and get things done," Jordan said. "We were outrebounded and didn't do a good job on the boards but we fought through it."

After warning that he would "make some changes" after Tuesday's frustrating loss to the Trail Blazers, who played without Zach Randolph, Jordan did not drastically alter his rotation against Seattle.

With Jarvis Hayes out with a sprained right foot -- he is listed as day-to-day -- Jordan played 11 players and again gave all of them a chance to show that they can, in his words, "play the right way."

The biggest beneficiary of Hayes's absence was Roger Mason, who played 14 minutes and finished with three points on 1-of-6 shooting. One of Jordan's best coaching moves of the night came with 22 seconds remaining and his team clinging to a one-point lead. He substituted Michael Ruffin for Antawn Jamison and then watched Ruffin rotate over defensively and block a shot by Rashard Lewis at the rim.

"Coming west, we knew it was not going to be easy," said Arenas, who scored 40 points in a win at Golden State last March 27. "We wanted to win all five but we lost a tough one, so now we want to go 4-1. We just have to battle and win these close ones."


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