Wizards defeat Magic, 104-97, in first home game since Arenas's suspension
Saturday, January 9, 2010
In their first home game without suspended guard Gilbert Arenas, the Washington Wizards put together one of their most complete and inspired performances of the season for a 104-97 victory over Southeast Division leader Orlando on Friday night.
Washington forward Antawn Jamison led the way with a game-high 28 points and had 11 rebounds, and center Brendan Haywood grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with 18 points on 6-for-6 shooting while having to contend with Magic all-star center Dwight Howard.
Caron Butler added 23 points for the Wizards (12-22), who won for just the second time in seven games and snapped a two-game home losing streak two days after the league suspended Arenas indefinitely.
"We just want to play basketball," said Jamison, who addressed the announced 20,173 at Verizon Center before the game about the Arenas gun incident. "It's been tough around here because every time you try to concentrate on basketball, you keep hearing questions about the situation, and it's been a distraction."
Washington certainly was focused down the stretch against the Magic, erasing a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and taking the lead for good, 86-85, with 5 minutes 51 seconds to play on Haywood's putback. The Wizards led by eight with 3:18 to play on two free throws by Butler and then all but sealed the victory with two more Butler foul shots for a 100-91 lead with 50 seconds to go.
The Wizards got 20 points from Randy Foye, Arenas's backup at point guard. Though he missed 12 of 17 shots, Foye made 8 of 8 from the foul line and had six assists with no turnovers. Friday's game also marked the return of guard-forward Mike Miller (six points), who has been out since Nov. 21 with a strained calf muscle.
"It definitely felt good," Foye said. "We've been working toward this in practice. We've been working really hard everyday, and I'm just happy we were able to go out and get a win today."
The Wizards entered the fourth quarter trailing, 77-71, after the Magic rode a 12-1 stretch that included seven straight points by Howard. The Wizards had tied the score at 59 and then 65 before Howard (team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds) began asserting himself inside.
After Orlando (24-12) built an 81-71 lead early in the final quarter, the Wizards countered with consecutive three-pointers by Jamison and Miller. Michael Pietrus scored for the Magic, but the Wizards got the next seven in a row, culminating in Bulter's mid-range jumper for an 84-83 lead with seven minutes to play that drew a standing ovation.
Wizards fans got a chance to get involved early in the game when both Coach Flip Saunders and Jamison were assessed consecutive technical fouls. Their displeasure was the result of an initial goaltending call against Howard 1:12 into the game that was overturned.
Jamison had released a short jumper that Howard snatched out of the air, and officials first ruled the basket should count. But moments later they waved off the field goal, drawing the ire of Saunders and Jamison.
Orlando opened the second quarter with a 9-2 push, and the Wizards labored to keep pace over the ensuing minutes. The Magic twice held nine-points leads leading up to halftime, including 50-41 on Jason Williams's three-pointer with 4:25 to play.
A late surge by the Wizards cut the deficit to 52-49 and featured consecutive three-pointers by Foye, who earlier after getting hit in the mouth had to leave the game to get four stitches in his upper lip. Washington trailed at the half, 56-51.
"We had guys who had great individual challenges," Saunders said. "What Antawn had to say earlier, all of our guys believe that. We know what we're going through is a very serious situation, and we know we're very much under the microscope. But we also know, as I said, when the crowd stood up, that's probably the first time we got everybody out of their seats this year. And they stood up because of how hard we played and the fight we were playing with, and that's how we have to play."