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Without John Wall again, Wizards get a big effort from Gilbert Arenas and beat Memphis

Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas drives to the basket against Grizzlies defender Xavier Henry at Verizon Center. Arenas finished with a team-high 24 points in John Wall's absence. (Photo by Richard A. Lipski for The Washington Post)
Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas drives to the basket against Grizzlies defender Xavier Henry at Verizon Center. Arenas finished with a team-high 24 points in John Wall's absence. (Photo by Richard A. Lipski for The Washington Post)
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By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 20, 2010; 12:47 AM

Playing their third consecutive game without ailing rookie sensation John Wall, the Washington Wizards got another nostalgic performance from Gilbert Arenas coupled with substantial contributions from Kirk Hinrich in the second half to outlast Memphis, 89-86, on Friday night before 13,504 at Verizon Center.

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Arenas finished with a game-high 24 points, none more important than his three-pointer with 4 minutes 16 seconds to play that broke a tie and gave Washington the lead for good. Hinrich, meantime, added 22 points and six assists, tying a game high, and was especially invaluable during the third quarter, when he scored 12 points to jar the Wizards back from a jagged stretch.

Center JaVale McGee had 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, and forward Andray Blatche chipped in with 19 points and nine rebounds. They also were part of a starting rotation that shot 27 for 31 from the foul line. Overall the Wizards made 20 more free throws than Memphis, which got 19 points from Zach Randolph but not much else, and that in large part helped them overcome 38 percent shooting from the field.

"It was like pulling teeth," Coach Flip Saunders said of the win. "I turned to [owner] Ted [Leonsis] during the game, and I said, 'This is like going to the dentist for a root canal' the way we were playing, but I give our guys credit because they hung in there, and I think that's part of the maturation process of being able, as I told them, you've got to find ways to win at home and then hopefully you carry it over and you find ways to start winning on the road."

This one was in doubt until the game-ending buzzer, when Mike Conley's desperation three-pointer missed. Moments earlier, O.J. Mayo's three-point attempt had failed, and Randolph collected the rebound and passed to Conley at the top of the key for the final shot.

There was plenty of apprehension before that sequence too, including McGee losing the ball on the dribble shortly after Arenas's three-pointer but then racing back to block Conley from behind for what Saunders called perhaps the play of the game. Blatche had the ball in his hands following McGee's hustle play, sized up center Marc Gasol with a few dribbles and then blew by him for a basket while being fouled. He made the bonus to give the Wizards (4-7) an 85-79 lead with 2:53 to play.

Washington expanded its advantage to 87-81 with Al Thornton's fallaway jumper, but the Grizzlies (4-9) drew to two on a pair of free throws by Rudy Gay, the 2004 All-Met Player of the Year, and Conley's field goal. McGee's dunk made it a four-point game, and Gasol made 1 of 2 free throws with 37 seconds left.

Thornton then missed a jumper, and Gasol gathered the loose ball and called timeout with 10 seconds to play to set up the riveting finish.

"Some shots didn't go down overall, but we were still aggressive, got to the free throw line," said Arenas, who made 8 of 10 foul shots. "We rebounded when we needed to, and we did overall stop most of their scorers from scoring."

Arenas, whose last home game on Tuesday featured 20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in a 109-94 victory over Toronto, and Hinrich were particularly stout defensively, limiting the Grizzlies' back court of Conley and Mayo to 6-for-24 shooting and not allowing either to get to the free throw line. The Wizards also forced 19 turnovers to win their second game at home in four nights and blunt the sting of Wednesday's 114-83 pasting at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

Washington managed to survive with Wall watching from the bench in street clothes. Wall leads the Wizards in points and assists and the NBA in steals but was unavailable because of a sprained left ankle suffered last Saturday night in a loss to Chicago. Wall was fitted for a walking boot shortly after the injury, but he was moving around during Friday night's game in sneakers and is day to day.

Saunders said he was hopeful Wall would be able to practice at least in limited fashion with the team on Sunday, but for at least this night, the back court was in capable hands even without the No. 1 overall pick.

"For me I'm a little more in my comfort zone just being accustomed to having the ball in my hands," said Hinrich, whose third-quarter outburst included a run of seven straight points. "Just having a good feel with Gil right now, just using each other, helping each other, and helping each other get shots, and it's just feeling pretty good right now."


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