Win against Kings slips out of Wizards' hands

Arenas scores 43 points, matching career high, but Washington falls, 110-108

Pro Basketball

February 28, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Eddie Jordan kept looking down his bench, hoping that Larry Hughes would suddenly reappear in uniform, or that one of the other injured Washington Wizards would get healthy in a hurry.

As the Wizards coach looked at the court late in last night's game against the Sacramento Kings at a sold-out MCI Center, he wished he had Hughes or someone other than Gilbert Arenas and Steve Blake to make a shot, hit a free throw or even hold onto the ball.

Arenas tied his career high with 43 points, and Blake came off the depleted Washington bench to chip in 17 points and five assists, but most of the Wizards looked a bit lost down the stretch as a seven-point lead with a little less than six minutes remaining turned into a frustrating 110-108 defeat.

Washington (31-24) attributed its fifth loss in the past six games to the officiating - particularly a foul call against Arenas on a play that resulted in Cuttino Mobley hitting the game-winning free throws with 1.5 seconds left - but Jordan chose to take a more diplomatic route.

"You have to give them credit," Jordan said of the Kings, now 2-1 since trading Chris Webber to the Philadelphia 76ers. "They made big shots. Unfortunately, we fouled at the end. You can't win against a team that can make shots and execute the way they did. You think you are going to have a good shot at winning the game, which we did, but you just can't shoot yourself in the foot, and that is what we did."

The Wizards showed again their Achilles' heel, missing 15 of 33 free throws. In the closing minutes, when the Kings mounted their comeback, Washington also demonstrated why it is one of the league's worst defensive teams, allowing Sacramento (36-21) to go on a 9-0 run to take a 106-104 lead with 1:49 to go.

Arenas then was fouled going in for a drive - making the shot and the subsequent free throw - to give the Wizards the lead, which was extended to 108-106 on one of two free throws by reserve center Michael Ruffin. But after Blake forced Mike Bibby (38 points) to miss, Brendan Haywood lost the rebound, and Mobley scored off a scramble under the basket.

"Brad Miller almost took my legs out," Haywood said. "To me, that's another chance for an official to call a foul. That's your job. We've got to go out and do our job, and they've got to do their job. They didn't do their job tonight."

On the play that ultimately cost Washington the game, Arenas said he got more than a piece of the ball trying to block Mobley in the lane, but he thought there were many more times during the course of the game that he was fouled on similar plays and nothing was called.

"I don't understand it sometimes, I probably drive it as strong as anybody in the league, I don't get the same calls as anybody gets, as an [Allen] Iverson, who can shoot 26 free throws in a night," said Arenas, who made four of seven free throws and 16 of 32 from the field, including seven of his 11 threes. "I've got to get more years in the league to get that call."

It didn't help Arenas, or the Wizards, that fellow All-Star Antawn Jamison had his second straight poor shooting night. After missing 16 of 23 shots in Friday's loss in Chicago, Jamison was three of 15 last night (one of six on threes) and finished with seven points, his second-lowest scoring game of the season.

It also didn't help that Jarvis Hayes joined Washington's walking wounded on the bench after straining his right knee in the second quarter. The Wizards were already without starting forward Jared Jeffries (bruised knee) and Hughes, who was activated last week but still has yet to play since breaking his thumb last month. Also, reserve guard Juan Dixon is on the injured list with a sprained ankle.

"We were down men, but that's something you have to deal with in this league," Arenas said. "They were without key players, too. [Peja Stojakovic is out with a hip injury]. We fought hard, too hard to lose a game like that on a couple of free throws. This one will be a tough one to swallow."

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