Wizards, Arenas bump Bucks to end skid

Guard scores 31, Thomas adds career-high 23 for satisfying 112-94 victory

Pro Basketball

February 06, 2005|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Entering last night's game, the Washington Wizards needed to forget about their season-worst four-game losing streak, forget about blowing a 22-point lead the night before, forget that their so-promising season was in danger of unraveling.

Washington needn't have worried. The Milwaukee Bucks proved to be extra-strength aspirin for the Wizards' hangover, making their misadventures against Toronto the night before seem like a distant memory.

Gilbert Arenas scored 31 points - his sixth 30-plus game in his past eight outings - and Etan Thomas came off the bench to score a career-high 23 as the Wizards ended their slide with a 112-94 victory.

The antidote to what ailed the Wizards came in the form of a seemingly weary Bucks team that missed nine of its first 10 shots and got pushed around inside all night. Washington recorded 54 points in the paint compared to 26 for the Bucks.

"You can't win a championship playing guard ball," said Arenas, who had nine assists. "We're going to need our bigs."

Thomas, who also had eight rebounds, played his best game since returning after missing the first 32 games with a severe abdominal strain. The Wizards collected 25 fast-break points to Milwaukee's six.

"Turnovers and fast breaks set the tone of the game," Bucks coach Terry Porter said. "We started turning the ball over and they were off to the races."

Washington is 15-1 when it holds opponents under 100 points.

The Wizards had led by 22 points in the third quarter against Toronto Friday night but blew the game after Arenas was ejected in that period for arguing a call and tossing the ball at an official.

That wasn't going to happen last night. Arenas stayed cool, and why not? He hit five of his first six shots and his four-point play (three-pointer and a foul) - the team's first of the season - gave the Wizards a 15-6 lead with 5:29 left in the first quarter.

"You know, that's a great feeling when you can actually finish a game," Arenas quipped.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said he couldn't help but worry when the Bucks, led by Michael Redd's 20 second-half points, began chipping away at Washington's lead, which was 25 at the half and 21 after the third quarter.

"We were up 21 and then I think it got down to 15. But you just can't think about what happened in the past," Jordan said.

"We went through some tough times, man," the coach said. He said of the Toronto game: "A game like that sticks in your head. You don't sleep."

Rather than dress his team down during the streak, Jordan said he and the other coaches tried to build the players up. "We stated that out of 45 games we've been competitive except maybe four."

Even with the four-game slide, Washington (27-19) still has its best record at this stage since 1984-85. Last night began a four-game homestand.

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