MIAMI | Gilbert Arenas gave the Washington Wizards a scare about an hour before Tuesday night’s game against the Miami Heat. After running through pregame warmups, the guard and team trainers informed coach Flip Saunders that the sore right calf that had kept Arenas out of Monday’s practice was too tight for him to play.
Saunders, who already had four other injured players, had to come up with a new starting lineup. But 10 minutes before tipoff, Arenas changed his mind.
Not only did Arenas play - and start - he was on the court for a season-high 42 minutes and fell two assists shy of recording a triple-double. But it wasn’t the type of triple-double he was looking for, nor the outcome he sought.
The Heat thumped the Wizards 90-76, and Arenas had 21 points, eight assists and a career-high 12 turnovers. And he had a late-game technical foul for arguing a call. Arenas’ butter fingers proved contagious; Washington combined for 22 turnovers as a team. Miami (6-1) capitalized, scoring 27 points off the Wizards’ giveaways, and the Heat got their second victory over Washington (2-6) in a seven-day span.
“It’s the same thing,” a frustrated Saunders said. “When things get bad, we as individuals try to do too much instead of trying to get everybody involved. Then we made some bad decisions, turned the ball over, had some charges that were called. But it wasn’t for a lack of effort.”
Adding injury to insult, Randy Foye left the game midway through the second quarter with a sprained right ankle and did not return.
Dwyane Wade, who scored 40 points in the first meeting (a 93-89 victory at Verizon Center on Nov. 4), had 41 points Tuesday. Caron Butler had 19 points and seven rebounds for Washington. Brendan Haywood added 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Andray Blatche added 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
“That double-double, I could care less,” Blatche said. “I just want to get a win, period. We’re starting to dig ourselves into a hole, and we’ve got to get out of this [stuff] as soon as possible.”
In the Southeast Division foes’ first meeting of the season, Washington came out flat and trailed by 19 points in the first half before rallying to take a brief fourth-quarter lead. But two missed foul shots, two turnovers and an airballed layup by Arenas - all in the final 44 seconds - sank Washington.
The Wizards got off to a much better start in the rematch, taking a 27-21 first-quarter lead behind nine points from Haywood and eight from Arenas. Washington also appeared to have cured two ills that plagued it last week (poor shooting and a lack of assists), shooting 69 percent and picking up nine assists.
But the Wizards regressed in both categories in the second quarter, missing 15 of 23 attempts from the field and committing three turnovers. They still managed to maintain their edge, however, and at one point in the quarter led by 11 points before going into halftime up 49-41.
The Wizards then allowed the Heat back into the game with a sloppy third quarter that included Arenas committing seven turnovers that led to nine Miami points.
Meanwhile, Wade attacked Washington for 15 points to help his team overtake the Wizards. Making a pair of free throws with 2:01 left in the quarter, Wade gave Miami a 62-61 lead. Three more free throws - one by Carlos Arroyo and two by Wade - put the Heat ahead 65-62 heading into the fourth.
Arenas’ 11th turnover was the backbreaker. Driving to the basket with time running down on the shot clock, Arenas lost the ball in traffic. It was batted out to Wade, who raced the length of the floor and flushed a two-handed jam that put Miami up 77-73 with 3:43 left.