- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS — When Gilbert Arenas drilled a 3-pointer with time expiring to send the Washington Wizards into overtime against the Indiana Pacers last night, the guard thought he had sucked the life out of the Pacers and the 16,212 fans in Conseco Fieldhouse.

It was exactly the opposite.

The Wizards made just one of their nine field goal attempts in overtime and dropped their season opener 119-110 to an undermanned Pacers team.

The Wizards made few personnel changes over the summer, and even though it’s still early, if last night is any indication, the things that have worked against them in the past will continue to do so this year.

An inability to defend the pick and roll remained a big problem.

When they needed to get points, the Pacers — playing their first game under coach Jim O’Brien — simply spread the floor, located the soft underbelly of the defense and exploited it.

“They were just better tonight,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They made some big 3s. I thought they hurt us on the board late, and they made 3s.”

Did they ever.

The Pacers’ 13 3-point field goals fell just one shy of the Conseco Fieldhouse record. Overall, the Pacers were 13-for-29 on 3s, and in the second half they made nine of 18 attempts.

In losing their opener, the Wizards wasted some decent performances.

Arenas finished with a game-high 34 points and eight rebounds. However, he finished with five turnovers and just three assists.

Antawn Jamison was one of three Wizards to finish with a double-double, tallying 27 points and 16 rebounds despite missing his first six field goals. Caron Butler added 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Brendan Haywood finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds — including a career-high 11 offensive rebounds.

But if the Wizards are kicking themselves today, it’s understandable considering the Pacers were without two starters: their best player, power forward Jermaine O’Neal, and small forward Troy Murphy.

Despite their manpower shortage, the Pacers — beginning with Jamaal Tinsley — more than answered the call.

Held to just four points on 1-for-8 shooting in the first three quarters, Tinsley scored 16 in the fourth quarter and overtime. In fact, Tinsley was just one rebound (nine) and two assists (eight) away from a triple double.

“He didn’t make a shot the first half, didn’t force things and just let the game come to him,” O’Brien said. “And down the stretch he hit big shots.”

Danny Granger had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Mike Dunleavy finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds.

The Pacers looked to be safe once Tinsley sank a pair of free throws for a 103-100 lead with 6.8 seconds left in regulation.

But after a timeout, Arenas, who triggered the play near midcourt, got the ball back from Jamison, dribbled to create space and lofted a 25-footer that hit nothing but net.

But the Wizards’ only lead in overtime came on a pair of Butler free throws to start the extra period.

From there it was all Indiana.

“They got into a comfort zone, and Jamaal Tinsley just took over,” Jamison said. “We didn’t play smart offensively or defensively. We didn’t do enough to get them out of their comfort zone. It’s one of those games. On the road you have to find a way to get it done. We came up short. But we’ve got to do a better job of making adjustments.

Note — Guard DeShawn Stevenson left the game momentarily in the first quarter after suffering a mild knee injury. He did return but played less than five minutes in the second half.

Wizards report

Last night at Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

SEEN AND HEARD

Before the season opener against Indiana, the Washington Wizards announced Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler would serve as team captains this season.

That is not a new honor for Jamison, who has been a captain before. But it is a first for Butler.

“We’ll see how he responds, but if he continues to do what he’s been doing, he’ll be a terrific captain,” coach Eddie Jordan said. “He has showed all of us that he’s put in his time. At the same time he’s all about business on and off the court, so it was appropriate. He has taken some major steps to showing us he’s a leader.”

Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas has turned down the captaincy before and has expressed on more than one occasion he has no desire to be a captain. He was, however, one of two people Jordan said he discussed the position with. The other was Antonio Daniels.

“Gil is delighted that Caron and Antawn are captains,” Jordan said. “We had conversations, and we’re all in a special place right now. There is no animosity, no ill-will. I think it all fits.”

• The game marked the return of referee Joey Crawford. Crawford was suspended last season after he ejected San Antonio’s Tim Duncan from a game against Dallas and then, according to Duncan, challenged him to a fight. Crawford has officiated more playoff (266) and finals games (38) than any active referee.

John N. Mitchell

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