Washington Wizards defeat Milwaukee Bucks, 109-97

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 24, 2009; D01

MILWAUKEE -- Gilbert Arenas crashed into the hardwood, landing hard on his left side and began grimacing and rolling on the floor in considerable pain. Randy Foye immediately ran to help him, but Arenas barely had enough strength to push himself back up.

It was a moment that warranted a collective grasp from players and coaches along the Washington Wizards bench, as they had just squandered a second-half lead to the Milwaukee Bucks and now, their franchise player was unable to move.

Arenas eventually limped to the bench with the assistance of his teammates. But trailing by two and with Arenas sidelined for the rest of the game with a left thigh bruise, the Wizards were able to pull out a 109-97 win over the Bucks riding the shoulders of Earl Boykins, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, who combined to scored 25 of the Wizards' 28 points in the fourth period.

"If anybody knows how to deal with injuries and adversity, we do. We saw one of our keys go down and we turned it up a notch," said Butler, the Wisconsin native who led the Wizards with 25 points and 10 rebounds and ignited the game-changing 9-0 fourth-quarter run with a baseline jumper immediately after Arenas went down. "We stepped up and made the way. Everybody."

Jamison had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Boykins had 12 of his 15 in the final period -- with nine coming after Arenas was forced to sit with 7 minutes 12 seconds remaining -- as the Wizards won consecutive games for just the third time this season. The Wizards (10-17) also snapped a three-game losing streak at Bradley Center.

Arenas had 18 points and nine assists and appeared at ease late in the game, as he calmly clipped his fingernails on the bench. "Earl had it under control," Arenas said with a laugh. "Since I was sitting, they went on a run. There was no point in going back in, they played well. It's the second night in a row that the team won the game. Earl came in and finished where I left off early in the game. That's what we needed."

The Wizards led, 81-75, when Nick Young made a three-pointer with 34.6 seconds left in the third period, but they would go silent for several minutes after that.

The Bucks scored the first nine points of the fourth period, taking advantage of several Wizard miscues. They committed three turnovers during the run, with Arenas driving inside, stumbling and throwing the ball away and holding the ball for several seconds and picking up a shot clock violation. Boykins later threw the ball between Brendan Haywood's legs and fell to the ground.

The Bucks went ahead 82-81 when Charlie Bell made a driving layup. Kurt Thomas extended the lead to three, but Boykins responded with a three-pointer to tie the score. Bell put the Bucks ahead 86-84 with another layup, and when Arenas came back on the other end, he drove into two Bucks defenders and was called for an offensive foul before he hit the ground. Arenas also lost a tooth on the play when he hit the ground.

"I ran into knees," Arenas said. "I wear pads. For some reason, I keep getting kneed where the pads aren't. I was like, 'This hurts way more than I thought it should.' Since I was little tired anyway I might as well just take it all down."

Butler then tied the score at 86 on a jumper and Bucks forward Luc Mbah a Moute fouled Jamison, who was setting the screen on the play. Jamison made the free throw and the Wizards wouldn't trail again. Randy Foye (12 points) put the game away when he hit a three-pointer to give the Wizards a 100-92 lead with 3:39 remaining.

"It was an impressive win when you take into consideration that we played last night," Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said. "The thing that I liked about what we did was that we executed down the stretch. We got the shots that we wanted or got into the paint, where we wanted to get, and we just didn't settle."

Bucks center Andrew Bogut has bought a section of the Bradley Center for a group of 100 fans whose sole purpose is to cheer wildly for the home team. At one point in the first period, Arenas stepped to the foul line and the group of fans -- called "Squad 6" after Bogut's jersey number -- started chanting, "Where's your mojo?"

It seemed like an odd question to ask, since Arenas was playing like a man who was brimming with confidence at the beginning of the game. Arenas was responsible for 27 of the Wizards' 37 points in the first quarter, as he scored 13 points and handed out seven assists.

Butler had a homecoming near the holiday, as he had 70 family members in attendance and brought about 800 kids from seven different youth programs in his hometown of Racine, which is about 30 miles south of Milwaukee. After making a long jumper to put the Wizards ahead 91-86, Butler raised his right hand and shouted.

"My neighborhood was here. I was just letting them know, 'I'm back,' " Butler said. "This has always been a tough place for me in particular to get a win. Coming here and getting a win meant a lot. Obviously, I was caught in the moment."

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