- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

BOSTON — At some point during the season, sooner rather than later, the Washington Wizards are going to look back on their last game of 2004 — a taught, 108-103 loss to the Boston Celtics — and realize they could have lost much more.

When juxtaposed against the news that, while showering the night before the game, star guard Gilbert Arenas — dehydrated and exhausted by a flu-like virus — passed out and split his head open during a fall, the fact that the Wizards took just one free throw in the second half and lost without Arenas in the lineup looks like so much minutia.

Held out of the game by coach Eddie Jordan because of his virus and not the head injury, Arenas remembers little about the night before last; he estimates he suffered a pair of falls in the swanky hotel.

“I eventually woke up,” said Arenas, who was taken to a Boston-area hospital yesterday morning by team trainer Eric Waters. “I think I got knocked out twice because I ended up in the tub. And then from the tub I ended up on the living room floor. I didn’t remember anything; I didn’t feel anything. I just remember waking up in the tub with blood.”

That it could have been far worse was not lost on Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, who anticipates that Arenas, the team’s leading scorer (22.7), will be healthy enough to return to the lineup for tomorrow afternoon’s game at MCI Center against Atlanta.

“Especially when you are in a hotel room by yourself,” Jordan said when asked about the danger of the situation. “He lost his balance and fainted. I guess he slept through it. He’s recovering. Outside of a couple of stitches he’ll be all right.”

At the hospital, Arenas was given fluids intravenously, checked out and actually given medical clearance to play.

While all indications point to Arenas being available tomorrow, his presence clearly was missed against the Celtics (13-16) as the Wizards (15-13) lost for the seventh time in their last 10 games.

It squandered another stellar effort by Larry Hughes, who eclipsed 30 points in a game for the fourth time this season to match his season high of 33. Hughes’ 13-for-20 shooting performance featured him knocking down all six of his 3-point attempts — another career high.

Hughes also handed out six assists, matching Steve Blake — who started at point guard in place of Arenas — for game-high honors.

The game featured 23 lead changes and 13 ties. No team led by more than six points.

The biggest disparity came at the free throw line, where Boston made 28 of 34 attempts. The Wizards went 9-for-10 and attempted just one free throw in the second half. The Celtics shot 20 second-half free throws.

Jordan, who watched a host of controversial calls go against his team two nights earlier when the Wizards blew a 19-point lead to Detroit, had to restrain himself when the subject was broached.

“Was that in direct relation to not having Gilbert or something else?” Jordan asked. “Something else, but I don’t want to get fined. Twenty to one, you do the math. Twenty free throws to one and we’re driving to the basket and competing on the glass.”

Nonetheless, the Wizards, who also got 29 points — 18 in the second half — from Antawn Jamison, still had a chance to earn what could have been their eighth road win of the season.

Trailing by 106-103 after Boston’s Jiri Welsch (10 points) sank a pair of free throws, the Wizards called a timeout with 11.5 seconds left.

When play resumed, the Wizards got the ball to Jamison along the baseline behind the 3-point line, which is right where they wanted it. Jamison’s good look became even better when the defender, rookie Tony Allen, slipped in front of him.

However, it might have been too good.

“I was too open,” Jamison said. “I didn’t know I was going to be that open. I kind of rushed it. Brendan [Haywood] did a great job of screening. I’ve just got to knock down that shot. I was wide open, and you have to find a way to knock down that shot. Unfortunately I just couldn’t do it tonight.”

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