By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
MIAMI -- Gilbert Arenas may have claimed that he had retired from entertainment, but that doesn't mean that he's going to stop providing some zaniness and unpredictability. An hour before they played the Miami Heat on Tuesday, the Washington Wizards announced that Arenas wasn't going to play because of a strained left calf muscle. With him laid up on the training table, it appeared that Arenas's dream of playing all 82 games was going to evaporate just eight games into the season.
Coach Flip Saunders had already decided that DeShawn Stevenson and Randy Foye would be his starting back court, but Arenas changed his mind about 15 minutes before the game -- right after the team's pregame meeting -- and declared himself fit to play. The move appeared to catch the Heat off guard in the first half, as the Wizards built a double-digit lead. After a timeout in the second period, Heat guard Dwyane Wade smiled at Arenas and shook his head, while Arenas grinned and nodded.
Arenas finished 21 points and eight assists in his surprise appearance, but Wade and the Heat were smiling in the end, taking advantage of Arenas's career-high 12 turnovers to hand the Wizards their fifth consecutive loss, 90-76.
"I'm always upset when I have turnovers. I'd rather just shoot the ball and get the attempts than get the turnovers," said Arenas who missed 13 of his 20 field goal attempts.
The Wizards (2-6) had 22 turnovers overall, which resulted in 27 points for the Heat. Wade scored a season-high 41 points less than a week after scorching the Wizards for 40. He also had three steals, some resulting in breakaway dunks. The Wizards have lost six in a row to the Heat, which closed the game on a 19-3 run.
The night turned ugly as Arenas received a technical foul with 30.3 seconds remaining, then center Brendan Haywood got into a shouting match with Quentin Richardson as the teams left the floor.
Richardson "said something disrespectful to me in the end, so I just let him know what it was," said Haywood, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Richardson mocked Haywood afterward, saying: "I think he wanted to give me a big hug. I couldn't see him doing anything else. I think he got his underwear in a bunch."
Arenas went from possibly not playing to having to play a season-high 42 minutes after Foye sprained his right ankle in the second quarter. Foye stepped on the foot of Heat forward Michael Beasley and immediately collapsed into Caron Butler's arms. Butler and Fabricio Oberto eventually had to carry Foye off the court.
Foye left the game wearing a walking boot.
"I was sitting there, like, 'I'm glad I decided to play,' " Arenas said, half-jokingly. "I don't know what Randy's status is, but . . . we just keep getting hit. I don't know what the hell is going on around here. I don't know if some old player put a curse on us back in the day. I have no idea."
With Javaris Crittenton and Mike James already out, the Wizards were forced to lean on Stevenson to spend some time at point guard.
As the only ball-handler on the floor, Arenas came unglued in the third quarter, when he committed all seven of the Wizards' turnovers in the period. Those miscues resulted in 11 points for the Heat, which outscored the Wizards 24-13 in the period.
"Part of it was, I mean our guys played hard, fatigue," Saunders said. "We didn't know Gil was going to play. We're lucky he decided to play. When Randy went down, we didn't have enough [ball]-handlers and it put so much pressure on those guys that they got exhausted. So, we had turnovers from exhaustion."
The Wizards scored just 27 points in the second half, committing 13 turnovers while making 10 field goals.
"We had the lead at halftime and I think we were playing well and we kind of did what Flip wanted us to do for two quarters," Haywood said. "I like the way we play, the score wasn't indicative of how close this game really was. We just didn't get it done down the stretch."
The teams traded baskets for much of the fourth quarter, but after Butler gave the Wizards a 73-71 lead, the Heat scored the next eight points. Jermaine O'Neal gave the Heat a two-point lead, then Arenas lost control of the basketball again, stumbling in the lane after Mario Chalmers batted the ball away. Wade then dunked on the other end. Chalmers later made the decisive three-pointer, giving his team an 82-73 lead with less than two minutes remaining.
Butler had 19 points and Andray Blatche, making his first start of the season, had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
"I could care less about that," Blatche said. "I just want to get a win. we're getting down to that time where we're digging ourselves a hole. We got to get out of this as soon as possible. We're not a bad team, even though our record states that. We're going to be all right."