In terms of bizarre endings, last night's game ranks near the top in recent Washington Wizards history.
Looking for their third straight win and a boost before embarking on a three-game trip that begins tonight at Chicago, the Wizards were firmly in control of last night's game against the Sacramento Kings at Verizon Center before they lost their concentration and Kings guard Mike Bibby started knocking down shots from all over the court.
After leading by 17 with 8 minutes 10 seconds remaining, the Wizards got sloppy and the Kings took advantage with a 21-3 run that gave them a one-point lead with 3:02 to play.
But the Wizards seemingly regained control when two free throws by Gilbert Arenas gave them a 109-106 lead with 0.7 of a second remaining, and the Kings needed a miracle.
They nearly got one.
Center Brad Miller lofted an 80-foot pass from the baseline to John Salmons, who jumped and caught the perfectly thrown ball between Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson before stepping back beyond the three-point arc and launching a shot that rattled through the rim.
The shot was originally ruled a two-pointer but was reviewed at the scorer's table. Replays showed that while Salmons was clearly outside the arc, the ball had not left his hand when time expired.
"If you took a physical of me after the game -- I don't know," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said.
As Jordan and his relieved team walked off the court, the Kings lingered near their bench as if they couldn't believe that they were robbed of a shot at overtime.
"We lost," said Salmons, whose three-pointer cut Washington's lead to one with 1.4 seconds remaining. "That is all that matters, but it looked good to me."
Arenas scored 30 of his game-high 43 points in the first half and made 16 of 17 free throws, helping the Wizards overcome a season-high 23 turnovers that Sacramento converted into 27 points.
Bibby, who was the subject of trade rumors leading up to yesterday's 3 p.m. deadline, scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter when he made four three-pointers, including one that gave the Kings a 103-102 lead with 1:35 remaining.
The Wizards (31-21) moved 10 games above .500 for the second time this season and improved to 4-4 without injured forward Antawn Jamison.
"We have to learn how to close games out," said Stevenson, who finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. "We made a lot of crazy passes and had a lot of turnovers and you can't do that against a good team. We have to be a veteran team and go out there and finish a game off."
Caron Butler added 25 points, 5 assists and 5 steals and came up big in the third quarter, when he scored 10 points and helped the Wizards take a 12-point advantage into the fourth.
Arenas and Kings forward Ron Artest (32 points on 11-of-17 shooting) engaged in a duel early. Both connected on 6 of 7 first-quarter shots, and Arenas made three three-pointers while scoring 19 first-quarter points.
It was the eighth 40-point game of the season for Arenas.
"I came out on fire," Arenas said. "I was feeling hot from the beginning of the game. I got to the free throw line a bunch of times, and we were sharing the ball really well."
Despite the impressive scoring total, Arenas was as responsible for the game's close finish as any Wizard. He turned over the ball nine times and lost Bibby on several possessions when his fellow University of Arizona product hurt the Wizards in the fourth quarter.
When it was over, Arenas and the Wizards were simply happy to get out of the building with a win before hopping a plane to Chicago.
"We didn't execute well at the end, but we did what we had to do to win," Jordan said. "There are different ways to win in this league and the most important thing is we won and we are 10 games over .500."