By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 28, 2009
MIAMI -- Gilbert Arenas's inability to win a game in 19 tries against Dwyane Wade was probably one of the most startling statistics of his seven-year stint with the Washington Wizards. He couldn't beat Wade in the regular season, in the playoffs, whether Wade had Shaquille O'Neal as a teammate or not. After returning to action following an almost two-year hiatus, Arenas again found himself on the losing end to Wade in two meetings earlier this month.
But in order for Arenas to finally defeat Wade, it didn't require an explosive offensive performance with highlight drives and jumpers. Arenas just needed to lean on Antawn Jamison, Nick Young and Earl Boykins, who carried the Wizards to a 94-84 victory at American Airlines Arena while Arenas spent the entire fourth quarter watching and cheering on the bench.
"For real? 0-19?" Arenas said with a laugh, then pressed his index finger against his lips. "Shhhh. I thought it was 0-12. [Things] never went our way."
But the Wizards (5-9) had a lot working in their favor on Friday night, as they won consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 20. Jamison scored a game-high 24 points with 13 rebounds. Young had another season high in his second start in place of the injured Mike Miller, finishing with 22 points and five assists.
More importantly, Young forced Wade to expend an inordinate amount of energy chasing him around on defense, leaving Wade gassed on the offensive end. After scoring a combined 81 points in the first two games against the Wizards this season, Wade was limited to just 18 points on 6 of 19 shooting.
"It feels good, I ain't going to lie. My goal was to keep him under 40," Young said, flashing a huge grin. "Just going out there with courage. I knew it was going to be a challenge for me. Them days without playing kind of hurt me, so I came out there with a chip on my shoulder."
The Wizards wore black tape on their uniforms in honor of Abe Pollin, the franchise's longtime owner who died on Tuesday at age 85 and was buried earlier Friday. Following an emotional week that included a spat between Arenas and Caron Butler, they won their first game within the Southeast Division after losing twice to Miami and once to Atlanta. They will host the Charlotte Bobcats Saturday night at Verizon Center.
"To come in and give a complete effort is satisfactory. It's been a tough couple of weeks to finally put things behind us and concentrate on the most important thing, which was basketball, says a lot," said Jamison, who missed the first two games against Miami because of a partially dislocated shoulder. "This is place that has been tough for us. But guys did a great job as far as keeping our composure."
Coach Flip Saunders credited Jamison for not letting his teammates crumble, as he scored 13 points in the first half and provided several pep talks throughout the game.
"That was something we missed. Not having him, some of these games might've been different story," Saunders said. "Not only his leadership, but his ability to hit big shots at the right time, get a key rebound. He's an emotional leader; he's always going to be there when you need him."
The diminutive Boykins (10 points, nine assists) also played a huge role in helping the Wizards snap a four-game losing streak in Miami, claiming their first win in this building since March 21, 2008. He entered the game for Arenas with 1 minute 57 seconds left in the third quarter with the Wizards holding a one-point lead.
Boykins quickly found Jamison for a fast-break layup to give the team a 67-64 after three quarters and he provided the finishing touches in the last two minutes. He found Andray Blatche (eight points, nine rebounds) for a layup, then pump-faked Heat guard Mario Chalmers, slid underneath him and made a 16-foot jumper to give the Wizards a 13-point lead with 52 seconds left.
"Earl was going so well. I thought it was probably best to let him finish," Saunders said, explaining why he sat Arenas for the final 14 minutes.
Boykins finished off Cleveland in similar fashion two weeks ago, but he wasn't ready to be called the closer just yet. "I don't know about all that," he said. "I just go out there and try to play the game and tonight, guys made shots."
Arenas, who played with Boykins in Golden State in his second season, said he is still amazed by what the 5-foot-5 Boykins can do. "It's funny to me. To see the little midget running out there," Arenas said. "I told him the best thing for me is when he scores. It seems unreal to me."
Wade had been the Wizards' -- and Arenas's -- boogeyman for most his career. on Nov. 4, he had 40, including the decisive three-pointer, as the Heat won, 93-89, and 41 as the Heat beat the Wizards, 90-76, less than a week later.
In those losses, Arenas had two games he would probably like to forget: He had three miscues in the final 25 seconds in the first meeting, and committed a franchise-record 12 turnovers in the second meeting. Arenas's only victory against the Heat came on Dec. 15, 2006, when Wade sat out, having lost 15 consecutive regular season games and four more in the postseason.
But now, he's 1-19.
"It feels great," Arenas said with a smile.