- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

SEATTLE — The Washington Wizards were forced to swallow two bitter pills on the same night.

They dropped an 88-85 decision to the Seattle SuperSonics, despite rallying from 18 points down in the third quarter, but even more unsettling was the news that leading scorer Gilbert Arenas suffered what was preliminarily diagnosed as a bruised lower abdomen.

“I don’t want to misdiagnose it, but it’s bad,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “It’s bad right now.”

Arenas will be seen by the Sonics team doctor this morning to determine the extent of the injury.

Arenas had to be carried from the bench to the dressing room by teammates Brendan Haywood and Christian Laettner with 4:36 to play. Arenas took a blow to the stomach and said he “heard something pop.”

He returned to the bench to watch the end of the game. And while Jordan was ready to rule him out for the remaining two games of the road trip, Arenas, who was up and walking albeit bent over, was optimistic about an early return.

“I feel bad,” Arenas said. “I was in the middle of a spin and I heard something pop in my stomach and groin area,” he said. “It was like a charley horse.”

Why did he return to the bench?

“My team was out there and we were fighting,” he said. “You can’t go out in the middle of a fight. They need all the encouragement they can get out there.”

The loss dropped the Wizards to 5-8. Seattle improved to 7-4.

Seattle immediately took advantage of the injury, outscoring the Wizards 11-4 to lead 84-80 with 1:12 left.

The Wizards had overcome a horrendous first half that saw them score just 24 points, their lowest point total for a half in 42 years.

The old record, 25 points, was achieved three times, most recently against New York on Dec. 22, 1985.

So dysfunctional was the offense that the Wizards had just three assists on their 10 first-half baskets. Seattle’s Rashard Lewis, primarily a scorer, had five assists himself in the first half.

Stunningly enough, the Sonics didn’t put the Wizards away in the first half. Despite building a 15-point lead late in the second quarter, Washington trailed by just 12 points at halftime.

Then the Wizards made a spectacular rally.

Trailing by 18 points with 3:22 remaining in the third quarter, the Wizards suddenly awoke from their dormant state. Washington capped a 26-7 run with a Juan Dixon 3-pointer to take its first lead of the game, 63-62 with 9:25 left.

Minutes later Dixon pulled up on the break to drill a 16-footer that pushed Washington’s lead to 76-71 with 7:21 left.

“We were making the same shots in the second half that we missed earlier,” Dixon said.

But they just didn’t have enough after Arenas left the game

After Lewis missed a jumper in the lane, Dixon, who had 16 of his season-high 17 points in the second half, turned the ball over when a pass intended for Jared Jeffries was stolen by Brent Barry with 25.2 seconds to play and the Sonics on top 84-82.

The Wizards still had a chance when Vladimir Radmanovic hit one of two free throws. However, after Dixon missed a 3-pointer at the other end, Ansu Sesay hit one of two free throws to extend the lead to 86-82 with 11.9 seconds left.

Jeffries nailed a 3-pointer with just under nine seconds to play. Lewis pushed the lead to 88-85 when he nailed a pair of free throws. The Wizards’ last chance to win slipped away when Dixon’s 3-point shot banged off the rim and time ran out.

Radmanovic led the Sonics, who got one point from their bench, with a season-high 25 points. Lewis added 24 and Ronald Murray added 21.

Leading 10-8 early, Washington, which made just five of 24 shots in the first quarter, suddenly couldn’t shoot the ball.

A layup by Murray with just under six minutes left was followed by a breakaway dunk by Radmanovic that sparked a 15-2 Seattle run that gave the Sonics a 23-12 lead early in the second quarter.Surprisingly, in building their 21-12 lead in the first quarter, Seattle wasn’t much better from the floor, connecting on just eight of 23 field goals.

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