The Washington Wizards have a new hero for now.
Boosted by 11 fourth-quarter points from backup point guard Earl Boykins — including four free throws in the final 17 seconds — Washington gutted out a 104-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night at Verizon Center.
With the win the Wizards (7-10) picked up their second straight victory and fourth in five games, giving evidence that finally, they may be on their way to turning the corner following a disappointing 3-9 start.
Gilbert Arenas had 22 points and nine assists, Nick Young had 21 points and five rebounds and Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler had 15 points apiece. But it was the 13-points from Boykins that rescued a Wizards team whose starters were gassed late after playing in Toronto on Tuesday night.
After losing a narrow four-point lead and falling behind 99-96 with 2:09 left in the game, Washington came to life thanks to their “Energizer Bunny,” Boykins. The 5-foot-5 backup point guard knocked down a 14-foot jumper to pull his team within one with 1:39 left. Then he got an outlet pass from Brendan Haywood on the other end and raced back up the floor. After dribbling down the shot clock, Boykins fed Haywood for a two-handed dunk that put Washington up 100-99 with 59 seconds left.
The Bucks missed their next two field goals, and Boykins got to the line with 17 seconds left. With Wizards fans on their feet — and many of them chanting MVP in appreciation of the guard — Boykins knocked down both free throws.
Milwaukee rookie point guard Brandon Jennings drilled a 3-pointer with 10.5 seconds left to the score 102-102.
Coming out of a timeout, with Arenas, Jamison and Butler all on the floor, Wizards coach Flip Saunders put the ball in Boykins’ hands again. The guard weaved his way in and out of traffic, then pulled up a jumper with 0.1 seconds left. He missed but was fouled by Jennings.
Boykins calmly stepped to the line and knocked down both shots — a remarkable feat for a team that missed nine free throws on Wednesday and 12 the night before — for a two-point lead.
Luke Ridnour missed a 3-pointer at the horn, and Washington escaped with a win.
The Wizards were coming off of a 106-102 victory over the Raptors on Tuesday night in Toronto, which was their second straight road win. But Washington followed that victory with a letdown Saturday against the Bobcats — something the team was hoping to avoid against Milwaukee.
The key to avoiding a flop like Saturday’s, Saunders said, was maintaining a high level of energy — especially off the bat.
The Wizards did get off to a good start against Milwaukee, taking a 26-22 lead after one quarter. Jump-starting Washington was Young, who made his fifth straight start and scored nine first-quarter points.
The Bucks, who hadn’t played in two days, came back in the second quarter. Fueled by the emotional boost of coach Scott Skiles’ ejection with 29.7 seconds left in the first, the Bucks outscored Washington 32-24 in the second to take a 54-50 halftime lead.
While Milwaukee went to its bench for a boost, Saunders stuck primarily with his starters, and it was Jamison who kept Washington within reach with 10 second-quarter points. Despite showing signs of fatigue, Washington’s starters again saw a heavy workload in the second half.
Andray Blatche kept the Wizards in the game early in the fourth quarter, scoring eight points off the bench, and then in the clutch, Washington went to Boykins to pick up the victory.
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