Arenas' 43 power Wizards

Fourth-period surge fuels 108-104 win over Pacers

total matches career high

February 08, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - If Gilbert Arenas thinks he has to carry the Washington Wizards these days, he shouldn't be blamed when he misses a big shot now and then.

Ever since shooting guard Larry Hughes was sidelined last month with a broken right thumb, Arenas has shouldered much of the scoring load. His shoulders seem to be holding up, as are the Wizards.

With Arenas tying a career high of 43 points - his 13th game this season with 30 or more, including eight of the past 11 - Washington overcame an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter and held off the Indiana Pacers, 108-104, before 14,804 at MCI Center.

"I've always been a fourth-quarter scorer - my whole career I've tried to score every time in the fourth quarter," said Arenas, who scored 16 points in the final quarter. "Tonight I was making shots."

Said Indiana coach Rick Carlisle: "He is a great player and he has been lighting everybody up the first half of the season. He is a guy that we talked a lot about, and he is one of those guys that can just make plays."

After twice driving by Fred Jones and getting fouled, Arenas made four straight free throws to give the Wizards a 106-102 lead with 34.5 seconds left. After a short hook by Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal, Arenas had a chance to seal the victory.

But Arenas watched a short pull-up jumper in the lane hit the back rim with 10 seconds to go, and the Pacers got one more chance. But Jones lost his dribble and Juan Dixon picked up the loose ball, got fouled and made both free throws.

As the final buzzer sounded, Arenas high-fived some fans at courtside and, as is his habit after each victory, tossed his jersey into the stands. He might be trading in his Wizards jersey for another jersey - one representing the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

Arenas will learn his fate regarding the Feb. 20 game in Denver when the reserves are announced today.

"I hope he makes it," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "It's funny, if Gilbert doesn't make it, he'll really be good. He'll be ticked off, and he'll go after people. I think he's going to make it. He deserves it. He's one of the best guards, not only in the East, but in the league right now."

Said Arenas: "I've been in this league and I've seen a lot of things happen. I don't believe it until it happens."

Considering what has happened in his team's two games against the Wizards this season, Carlisle might cast votes for Arenas and forward Antawn Jamison.

Jamison, who beat the Pacers on a last-second hook shot at Conseco Fieldhouse last month, finished with 24 points last night, including a running hook that put Washington ahead for good, 102-100, with 1:27 to play.

The victory was the 18th at home for the Wizards this season, eclipsing their total from last season, and, on a night when the team made only 22 of 37 free throws, lifted Washington (28-19) into a tie with idle Detroit for second place in the Eastern Conference.

For Indiana (22-25), a two-game winning streak came to an end when it couldn't hold an 89-81 lead with 9:36 remaining. O'Neal led the Pacers with 30 points and 13 rebounds, and guard Stephen Jackson scored 29.

As the game ticked down last night, the Wizards had a simple game plan: Get out of Arenas' way.

Said Jordan: "I know what the NBA game is about - get the ball to the right people's hands at the right time."

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