By Michael Lee
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Antawn Jamison's anticipated return was put on hold, with an illness keeping him home sick while the Washington Wizards hosted the Detroit Pistons on Saturday. But the Wizards were able to welcome new arrival Earl Boykins and welcome back Mike Miller after missing the past three games with a sprained left shoulder.
And, about an hour before the game, the team heard that another familiar personality was returning after a short-lived retirement.
"I'm Zero. I'm not Gilbert no more," said Gilbert Arenas, who claimed on media day that his days an entertainer were over and that he was going to retire his Agent Zero and Hibachi personas. "Gilbert's not working out. It ain't working if we lost five in a row. Coach told me he didn't want the angry man no more. So, he's back."
But no matter what the Wizards added, they were unable to be reunited with a victory, as they lost their sixth consecutive game, 106-103, before the second sellout crowd of the season at Verizon Center.
Making his Wizards debut, the 5-foot-5 Boykins led the Wizards with 20 points off the bench. Miller scored a season-high 20 points and Arenas had 19 points with a season-high 10 assists, but Wizards Coach Flip Saunders lost in his first meeting against his former team.
After the game, Arenas was asked if panic had set in for the underachieving Wizards (2-7), who continue to find ways to lose.
"I thought that was supposed to be when we were 2-3 and we lost two in a row," Arenas said. "We're finding ways to lose right now. If this was the middle of the season, six in a row doesn't seem so bad. But in the beginning of the season, everybody is winning games besides you and it looks bad."
The Wizards led, 95-89, after Boykins made a driving layup with 5 minutes 4 seconds remaining in the game, but they wouldn't make another field goal until Arenas made a meaningless three-pointer with 1.9 seconds left. Ben Wallace made a reverse layup to tie the score at 96 and Ben Gordon (game-high 29 points) scored the next eight points for the Pistons. He put them ahead, 98-96, with a driving layup, then made a free throw after Arenas drove and lost the ball off Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey's elbow. After Miller made two free throws, Gordon then hit a runner over DeShawn Stevenson to put the Pistons ahead, 101-98, with 19.9 seconds remaining.
Brendan Haywood (11 points, nine rebounds) made two free throws to cut the lead to one, but Stevenson fouled Gordon on a dead ball, giving Gordon a free throw. Then Gordon was fouled and made two more to give the Pistons a four-point lead with 14.4 seconds left.
"It's like we're inventing ways to put ourselves in the hole," Saunders said. "One thing that's very obvious with us -- and has to change -- is that if we don't make shots, the energy gets sucked out of us and we become very stagnant in the defense and carries over into the offense."
The Wizards hadn't topped 90 points since scoring a season-high 123 points against New Jersey on Oct. 31. Coming off a game in which they scored a season-low 76 against the Miami Heat, the Wizards reached that total with 3:32 left in the third quarter. They went ahead 78-69 when Caron Butler rebounded his own miss and made a layup. But the Wizards got too comfortable with the lead, and the Pistons closed out the period on a 9-2 run.
"The stuff we did in the third quarter, that was the 19-win Wizards, from last year," Haywood said. "We don't need that."
Arenas may have proclaimed that his entertaining persona was back, but it took a while for his shooting touch to return. He missed his first six shots in the first period and his early shooting woes helped put the Wizards into a hole, as they trailed 27-14.
Boykins played last season in Italy but wanted to return to the NBA and join the right situation. Boykins, who signed on Wednesday after the Wizards lost Mike James (broken hand) and Randy Foye (sprained ankle) to injury, came off the bench and immediately provided a boost to a stagnant offense. He had 11 points in his first six minutes on the floor, going on a personal 7-2 run to bring the Wizards within 38-31.
Arenas appeared to calm down playing alongside Boykins, his former Golden State teammate, and hit back-to-back jumpers. Boykins then found Andray Blatche under the basket for a reverse layup that brought the Wizards within 42-37.
"I didn't have any expectations," Boykins said. "I just wanted to go out there and provide a spark for the team. I wanted to go out and play solid basketball."
Butler finished with 16 points and nine rebounds and Andray Blatche had his second double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds as six Wizards scored in double figures. For one night, the Wizards figured out a way to score and share the ball. They had 25 assists and moved the ball better, but they could not close out the game. The Pistons also scored 20 points off of 15 Wizards turnovers.
"This is definitely one I thought we had," Butler said. "Thought we had it."