Arenas, Hughes lead Wizards by Celtics

Stackhouse says little after watching 112-102 win

Pro Basketball

April 05, 2004|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - While fleeing the possibility of questions about his ailing knee and his future with the Washington Wizards after the team's 112-102 victory over the Boston Celtics yesterday, Jerry Stackhouse did supply a query pertinent on several levels.

Sporting a sweat shirt not too dissimilar to the warm-up top he wore on the bench, the star forward was asked to talk for a few minutes, then shot back - before retreating to a back exit - "What's there to talk about?"

There was the matter of "DNP - Coach Decision" next to his name in the box score, and whether he would sit out the final five games of the season.

But despite the combined 63 points from Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes to give the team its second win over an Atlantic Division team this season, wonder left MCI Center months ago, a story told more by the abundance of empty seats than the 18,406 attendance figure published.

Fodder for discussion starts getting scarce when you're 29 games below .500.

So it was for almost 41 of the game's 48 minutes, after which the Wizards (24-53) scrapped their way to a 91-86 lead over the Celtics (35-42) on a free throw by Hughes, who ended up with 31 points while Arenas had 25 second-half points for a game-high 32.

With 7:16 remaining, Washington's problem was how to finish a game like this. After all, the team couldn't retain a 10-point lead over 4:05 against New Jersey last week.

And for an instant, the Wizards did not disappoint. Celtics star Paul Pierce, soldiering through a 7-for-18 shooting day, answered Hughes' free throw by slashing through the middle for two with 7:02 left. Two minutes later, Arenas and Kwame Brown further intensified fears by throwing the ball away on consecutive possessions.

"Turnovers, turnovers," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said of his fears. "And it almost came to pass, you know. We had four possessions where we had three turnovers and a poor shot."

However, Washington changed course. The team committed only one turnover in the last 4:50. And first-round pick Jarvis Hayes contained Pierce down the stretch.

That left the Celtics - holding the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference - depending on first-rounder Marcus Banks (team-high 24 points) for scoring punch at crunch time.

The win supports the belief that the Wizards can carry on without a star player who hinted last week in published reports that he might not come back next season.

"We're going to rest him a little bit, see if he can get his energy back," Jordan said. "He's going to look at it game-to-game. If he feels strong enough, maybe he'll play."

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