Wizards 119, Raptors 111
Gilbert Arenas was credited with 10 assists last night but his biggest, a drive and kick that set up Antawn Jamison's 19-foot, game-clinching jump shot with 25 seconds remaining in overtime, helped push the Wizards to a 119-111 victory over the Toronto Raptors in front of a season-low MCI Center crowd of 12,401.
Then again, Arenas' biggest assist of all was helping the Wizards (8-8) avoid a potentially embarrassing home loss to the team with the NBA's second-worst record. The fact that Arenas wasn't called for charging before passing off to Jamison -- Arenas made contact with Toronto's Mike James and James fell to the floor -- was almost as big as Jamison hitting the shot with Toronto's 6-foot-10 Chris Bosh running at him.
On a similar play late in Friday night's 105-102 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, a driving Arenas was whistled for a charge when Bucks guard T.J. Ford fell to the floor. Arenas said he didn't expect to be on the receiving end of a similar such call last night.
"I wasn't even going fast enough to knock him down," said Arenas, who finished with 37 points and 10 assists in 49 minutes. "He flopped. Besides, I got some good news. [The NBA] said that last game, it was a foul on Ford. That's all I want. Honesty."
Raptors Coach Sam Mitchell saw it differently. Moments after Jamison's shot fell, the second-year coach charged onto the court and started berating the referees. Mitchell's passion was understandable: The Raptors, who were coming off consecutive road wins over the Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets, were tantalizingly close to earning another over a Washington squad that had lost seven of its last nine games and was in danger of falling two games below .500 for the first time since a dreadful 2003-2004 season.
Toronto (3-16) led 61-59 at halftime and outscored the Wizards 26-22 in the fourth quarter. After Jamison made only one of two free throws, giving the Wizards a 105-102 lead with 14 seconds remaining in regulation, the Raptors set up in front of the Washington bench. Matt Bonner inbounded to Morris Peterson, who caught the ball at the top of the key and released a clean three-point attempt. The shot bounced off the rim but Peterson beat everyone to the rebound, dribbled out to the corner and drilled his fourth three-pointer, tying the game.
Arenas, who scored 12 fourth-quarter points, got a decent look at a game-winner but his three-pointer from about 25 feet out hit the front of the rim. Guard Jarvis Hayes, who went without a field goal in Friday's loss to Milwaukee, got the Wizards rolling in overtime with a 15-foot jumper and long three-pointer and then came up with a steal before dishing to Jamison, whose layup put Washington ahead, 112-107.
Jamison's second overtime basket -- the game-deciding jumper from the corner -- gave him 26 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists and made up for an ice cold fourth quarter during which he missed seven consecutive shots, one of them an air ball from around seven feet, and 9 of 11 overall. But Jamison hit the shot when it really counted and the Wizards outscored Toronto 14-6 in the overtime period.
"One thing about Antawn is, he's going to keep shooting no matter what happens," Arenas said. "He makes them when it counts. That's all that matters."
Jamison's big shot, Hayes's redemptive, 21-point, eight-rebound performance and Arenas's all-around brilliance bailed the Wizards out on a night when they made only 22 of 36 free throws and were outscored by Toronto's reserves, 44-13.
Toronto's Bosh gave the Wizards fits with 27 points and nine rebounds. Rookie point guard Jose Calderon, who has supplanted veteran Jalen Rose as a starter, repeatedly probed the Washington defense with dribble penetration and created open shots for Bosh, Peterson (21 points), rookie Charlie Villanueva (18 points) and Bonner (12 points).
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan continued his trend of juggling his rotation. Rookie forward Andray Blatche entered the game in the final minute of the first quarter with the Wizards leading 34-30. It was by far the most meaningful action Blatche has seen this season. Blatche, who appeared during garbage time in games against the Seattle SuperSonics and Charlotte Bobcats, played four minutes, hit his only shot -- a mid-range jumper from around 16 feet out -- and grabbed a rebound.
Jordan also turned to veteran center Calvin Booth late in the first quarter, didn't play reserve center Etan Thomas in the first half and didn't play guard Chucky Atkins at all. Reserve forward Caron Butler, Washington's top reserve and third-leading scorer, didn't play after halftime and finished with two points in 13 minutes.
"This win isn't going to change the season for us but it does get us to .500 and gives us a chance to keep improving," said Wizards forward Jared Jeffries, who posted his first double-double of the season with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. "Right now, a win was what we needed. It doesn't matter how we got it."