Bucks 105, Wizards 102
Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
It's doubtful that many of the 20,173 folks who stepped into MCI Center for Friday night's Washington Wizards game against the Milwaukee Bucks would have recognized third-year Bucks guard Maurice Williams if he had sat down next to them with his uniform on.
However, every soul in the joint knew all about Williams after he capped a career night by drilling a three-pointer over Wizards guard Chucky Atkins at the buzzer, giving the Bucks a 105-102 victory that dropped the Wizards to 7-8.
Williams, who came in averaging 12.6 points per game, torched the Wizards for a career-high 35 on 15-of-21 shooting and took advantage of a questionable charging call against Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas with 13 seconds remaining. On the game's final play, as Arenas and the Wizards were still coming to grips with the call that had just gone against them, Williams shook free of Atkins with a crossover dribble, elevated from about three feet behind the three-point line and released a jump shot with perfect arc.
"They had a foul to give. I thought they were going to foul me, so that is why I didn't attack the basket," Williams said. "When I saw that they weren't going to foul me I decided to shoot the three-pointer. If I hit it, we win, if I miss, we are going to overtime. I got a good look. I crossed over to get some separation from the defender and the shot went in."
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan, who watched helplessly as Williams scored 17 of Milwaukee's final 19 points, watched the shot fall to the basket with a sense of inevitability.
"No doubt," Jordan said. "It seemed like once it left his hand it was going to hit bottom and it did. I don't think any of them even hit the rim."
Jordan was more guarded when discussing the charging call that went against Arenas, who was only slightly less efficient than Williams, scoring 34 points on 14-of-23 shooting in 34 minutes. Arenas never got a chance to add to his total because first-year referee Eli Roe called him for a charge as Arenas was ready to attempt a left-handed layup after driving past Milwaukee point guard T.J. Ford.
Replays showed that Arenas and Ford had some contact but that Arenas didn't extend his arm or otherwise push Ford off. Either way, Roe blew his whistle and the Wizards lost an opportunity to attempt a game-winning shot of their own.
"I watched the replay five times and it wasn't a foul," Arenas said in a manner-of-fact manner. "It was a foul on him. I didn't even get the charge. He was falling before I even got there. When a rookie ref gets put in that situation -- somebody who weighs 215 going against somebody who weighs 165 -- it's an obvious call to make."
Still, the story of the night was Williams, a converted point guard from Arkansas.
Williams, who hit a 29-foot, game-winning jumper to beat the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 12, scored the game's first basket, curling off a screen before drilling a 14-foot jump shot. He never cooled off. Williams helped Milwaukee build a 33-27 lead at the end of the first quarter -- the most points allowed by the Wizards in a first quarter this season -- and then heated up down the stretch to help the Bucks hold on. Washington shot 51.3 percent and held its own on the boards against Milwaukee's center tandem of Andrew Bogut and Jamaal Magloire, but never took the Bucks of out of the offensive flow they established in the first quarter.
Of course, Williams was making shots that really can't be defended. Williams buried a 27-foot three over Caron Butler from the top of the key to tie the score at 93with 4 minutes 20 seconds remaining, a shot that drew a gasp from the crowd and led Butler to turn toward Jordan while shrugging his shoulders.
"I looked at coach like, dang, what am I supposed to do?" said Butler, who matched a season-high with 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting. "Coach just said, 'Don't worry about it.' "
A few possessions later, after switching out to help on Williams, Antawn Jamison was victimized by Williams, who hit a 26-foot three-pointer to give Milwaukee a 98-96 lead with 2:53 remaining. Later, with 50 seconds remaining, Williams dribbled from the top of the key, turned the corner on the Washington defense and rolled to the basket where his layup gave Milwaukee a 102-100 lead.
Arenas answered with a clutch layup of his own, taking a dribble exchange handoff from Jamison before elevating over Magloire at the hoop for his 33rd and 34th points of the night. After a miss by Magloire and rebound by Jamison, the Wizards spread out and allowed Arenas to work from the top of the key against Ford, who fell down and drew a charging call that set up Williams's game-winner.
"We just have to live with it," Arenas said. "He was 28 feet away and he hit it with somebody in his face. There aren't very many people who can hit that shot."