Wizards work OT to defeat Hornets

Arenas again scores 35

Washington wins, 111-106, after blowing 21-point lead

March 02, 2004|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Who knows how long Jerry Stackhouse will be out of the Washington Wizards' lineup, or if he will even return?

The Wizards didn't need their forward last night at MCI Center as they scored a 111-106 overtime decision over the New Orleans Hornets after surrendering a 21-point third-quarter lead.

Guard Gilbert Arenas scored 35 points for a second straight game, hitting two of his five three-pointers in overtime. The third-year guard played all 53 minutes, dishing out 11 assists in the process, as he continued his most torrid streak since returning from three stints on the injured list with a severe abdominal strain.

"I'm finding my rhythm now, especially coming back from that injury," Arenas said. "That hurt me at the beginning. I'm just trying to get my feel back, and the team is helping me. I have to thank them, too. They are finding me wide-open and clearing out the lane."

Arenas became the first Wizards player since Michael Jordan in two contests in February 2003 to score 30 or more in consecutive games, following his 35-point performance in Saturday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

"It was a gutsy performance," said Washington coach Eddie Jordan. "It was a performance that he relished. It was a playoff atmosphere. Will we get there? It remains to be seen, but we had a taste of it [last night] and Gilbert was the guy that carried us from beginning to the end."

Meanwhile, Stackhouse, who was evaluated by a team doctor yesterday, seemed to retreat from his Saturday statement that he had played his last game of the season for the Wizards (19-39).

Stackhouse, who had surgery during training camp to repair damage in the area between his right knee and kneecap, was found to not have suffered any structural damage in the knee in the 12 games since he returned after missing the first 45 games of the season.

Stackhouse said that he didn't want to play if he couldn't play at 100 percent, and that to play in games without practicing would be a distraction to the team.

"From all I hear, that doesn't matter," Stackhouse said last night. "They just want me to be able to play in the games. I can deal with that. The thing is, I have to get myself ready to play in the games. I'll do whatever I have to do from that standpoint. For right now, it's just getting back to just feeling well."

Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards' president of basketball operations, said Stackhouse will be evaluated this week but will not be placed on the injured list.

"We'll see how he is in the next couple of days.. ... Obviously, our main concern is that he's feeling good and he's able to get out there," Grunfeld said.

Grunfeld said Stackhouse is suffering from tendinitis in both ankles, but said that is not uncommon for NBA players nearly three-quarters into the season. And Grunfeld said Stackhouse can't do any more damage to the knee by playing.

The Hornets (32-28), who trailed by 21 with 2:08 left in the third quarter, picked up their defensive intensity and forced 12 turnovers in the next 11 minutes to fuel a 33-11 run to take a one-point lead with 3:16 left.

The Wizards' Jared Jeffries made one of two free throws with 2:15 remaining to tie the score at 96, as neither team scored down the stretch.

In the overtime, rookie Jarvis Hayes, who had 19 points, getting the start for Stackhouse, hit a three-pointer, after a Darrell Armstrong basket gave New Orleans the lead. Arenas then hit a pair of threes on consecutive possessions and the Wizards, who have won three of their past four, never trailed again.

New Orleans guard Baron Davis had 33 points - 31 after halftime - and 11 assists.

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Toronto Raptors

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WTEM (980 AM)

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