WASHINGTON - For the first time all season, the Washington Wizards had their Big Three - forward Jerry Stackhouse and guards Larry Hughes and Gilbert Arenas - together in a game.
That was the good news. The bad news was that the Wizards let the Memphis Grizzlies wriggle out of a 13-point fourth-quarter trap and lost, 103-101, before 12,531 at MCI Center last night.
The Wizards (14-33) got the third part of their triumvirate, Arenas, back from the injured list before the game. The result, the outcome notwithstanding, was about what anyone could hope for.
Hughes, who has played the entire season, save for one game, was terrific, scoring 27 points, with six assists and four steals. Stackhouse, in only his second game back from knee surgery, was solid, hitting seven of his 14 shots, for 19 points.
Arenas, who was surprisingly activated from his third stay on the injury list with a severe abdominal strain, shot 3-for-15 from the field for nine points.
"We didn't pull it out, but it feels good for everybody to get out there on the scene," Arenas said.
Arenas, who had played in only 20 games this year, said earlier this week that he would not return before the All-Star break next week, indicating that he was frustrated with the club's reluctance to let him play until he was fully healed.
But the 6-foot-3 point guard, who signed a 6-year, $65 million free-agent contract in the offseason, said he felt better after a couple of practices and convinced coach Eddie Jordan that he was ready to be activated yesterday afternoon.
"It was good to play with a full deck, finally," Jordan said. "I thought we were very competitive. We had a 13-point lead and it was my decision to give those guys a rest, and it just didn't work out because our bench just didn't hold the fort down."
Washington appeared to be in good shape heading into the fourth, having closed the third on a 12-0 run for an 84-71 lead at the end of the period.
The Wizards, who have had difficulties holding leads, watched as the Grizzlies (27-21) scored the first 16 points of the quarter, with James Posey hitting a pair of three-pointers in the run, a part of his season-high 31 points.
Jordan had elected to rest his starters, going with a smaller lineup early in the fourth, and he admitted that he might have made a mistake.
"The one thing we talked about [yesterday] was whatever happens out there offensively, because we have Gilbert and Stack re-learning the offense and trying to get their legs under them, let's defend and not give them anything easy. Our worst nightmare came to be in that stretch," Jordan said.
After Stackhouse made two free throws at the 7:04 mark to slow Memphis' roll, the Grizzlies took an 95-86 lead with 5:50 remaining. However, the Wizards responded with an 11-2 run of their own to tie the score at 97 with 1:25 left.
From there, however, the Wizards were unable to stop Pau Gasol, who backed hit a turnaround jumper with 1:08 left.
On the ensuing Washington possession, the Wizards turned the ball over on a 24-second violation. Then Gasol hit a baseline jumper with 26 seconds left to put the Grizzlies ahead to stay.
"We were right there," Stackhouse said. "We had a chance to win the game. We were out there playing ball, and it was fun to be a whole unit again."
Next for Wizards
Opponent: Los Angeles Clippers
Site: MCI Center, Washington
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WTEM (980 AM)