Arenas, trip drain Spurs

Weary champs have no answer for Wizards guard's 43 points

Wizards 110 Spurs 95

Pro Basketball


WASHINGTON — If last season was about proving they belonged in the playoffs for the Washington Wizards, this season is about showing they can compete with the NBA's elite. If last season was about becoming an All-Star for Gilbert Arenas, this season is about moving up a notch among the top guards.

The Wizards and Arenas accomplished that, at least last night.

Catching the league's reigning champions at the end of a long road trip, the Wizards matched the San Antonio Spurs in the first half, pulled away toward the end of the third quarter and blew out the Spurs, 110-95, before a raucous sellout crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center.

One night after scoring more than 30 points for the first time this season, Arenas blistered the Spurs for 43 -- the highest individual scoring output in the NBA this season and one shy of his career high -- with a performance that was as accurate as it was dazzling.

After an early shootout with San Antonio guards Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, Arenas took his game to another level, starting out 11-for-12 and finishing 15-for-20 from the field on a remarkable array of feathery jump shots and spinning drives. Ginobili led San Antonio (5-2) with 28 points; Parker had 23.

The victory gave Washington (5-1) its best start since the 1989-90 season. The Wizards benefited from the fact that the Spurs were playing their fifth and last road game in an eight-day stretch, and it showed as San Antonio seemed to run out of steam, as evidenced by Tim Duncan's 3-for-18 shooting.

"I think we had the advantage because they had been on the road for a week and a half," Arenas said. "We've been at home waiting for them to come. The goal was to keep it close, and if we could pull it out in the end, then go for it."

It didn't go that long. The Spurs led 27-24 after the first quarter and 53-52 at halftime, but the Wizards closed the third quarter with an 11-4 run -- the last three coming on a double-clutch 29-footer by Arenas that banked in at the buzzer -- to give Washington an 85-78 lead.

When the Wizards stretched their lead to 97-82 on a slashing drive by reserve Caron Butler (17 points) off one of Arenas' six assists, it was apparent that the Spurs weren't coming back. Not on a night when Duncan couldn't make a shot, whether from 10 feet or 10 inches.

"It was one of those nights," Duncan said.

While the Wizards were effective in rotating as many as four players on Duncan, the Spurs couldn't do anything with Arenas. He used his size to shoot over Parker and Nick Van Exel, and his speed to get by defensive stopper Bruce Bowen.

"They take pride in team defense, stopping individuals; they threw anybody and everybody on him," said Antawn Jamison, who finished with 19 points. "He looked like he was in one of those Rucker [playground] games."

Arenas took his ninth career game of 40 or more points in stride. More than talk about his performance, Arenas seemed happier in erasing the taste of the team's only defeat, last week at home to the Los Angeles Clippers. Not that there's anything wrong with beating the team that has won two of the past three NBA titles.

"Everything is a statement game," Arenas said. "We heard the critics when we won our first three games and we didn't beat teams [that had won] any games, that wasn't our fault. Our last two wins were great wins for us, especially tonight, and we're going to enjoy it, but we've got to come back to work on Monday."


San AntonioMinM-AM-AO-TAPFPts






Van Exel254-103-30-22113








Percentages: FG .410, FT .864. 3-point goals: 8-14, .571 (Ginobili 4-7, Van Exel 2-2, Bowen 2-3, Horry 0-1, Marks 0-1). Team rebounds: 9. Team turnovers: 15 (12 Pts). Blocked shots: 1 (Nesterovic). Turnovers: 14 (Parker 6, Ginobili 3, Duncan 2, Udrih, Sanders, Van Exel). Steals: 6 (Parker 3, Nesterovic, Sanders, Van Exel). Technical fouls: None. FGFTReb














Percentages: FG .551, FT .680. 3-point goals: 7-14, .500 (Arenas 4-8, Jeffries 1-1, Atkins 1-1, Jamison 1-2, Butler 0-1, Daniels 0-1). Team rebounds: 7. Team turnovers: 13 (17 PTS). Blocked shots: 3 (Haywood, Hayes, Butler). Turnovers: 13 (Butler 5, Arenas 4, Haywood, Hayes, Jamison, Daniels). Steals: 9 (Hayes 2, Butler 2, E.Thomas, Jeffries, Arenas, Jamison, Ruffin). Technical fouls: Delay Of Game, 3:38 fourth. San Antonio27262517--95


A--20,173 (20,173). T--2:08. Officials--Bill Spooner, Ken Mauer, Zach Zarba.

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