- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2004

This is the Gilbert Arenas the Washington Wizards were banking on when they invested close to $64million in him.

One night after deliberately not shooting the ball until the final five minutes in a win over Toronto, Arenas posted the second triple-double of his career. He finished with 21 points, a season-high 13 assists, and matched his career high of 12 rebounds in a 95-87 victory over the Chicago Bulls at MCI Center

Arenas, who connected on seven of 15 shots, made it look easy against the Bulls, who have lost 11 of 14. Arenas was so good that when he left the court with 1:14 left, many in the crowd of 13,109 applauded.

It was the third triple-double by a Wizards player. Rod Strickland posted the last one in April 1999.

“That’s what I get paid for — that’s what all of us get paid for,” Arenas said. “I have an ability to rebound, so tonight I figured I might as well go out and help my teammates do it.”

Three other Wizards posted double-digit scoring — Kwame Brown, Jerry Stackhouse and Brendan Haywood.

Arenas helped Brown off the floor after he was fouled late in the game. Brown finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, helping the Wizards to a 52-38 rebound advantage.

Clearly wanting to put the events of the past week behind him, Brown jokingly encouraged reporters gathered around “keep pushing him [Arenas] on.”

“It wasn’t drama — you all made it drama,” Brown said of his brief exchange of negative quotes with Arenas. “We said what we said, and it was the truth. Now guys are playing together. That’s how you play basketball.”

Stackhouse and Haywood both finished with 13 points. Jarvis Hayes and Steve Blake came off the bench to score nine and eight, respectively.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan was happy to see Brown, Arenas and the rest of the Wizards synchronized offensively. But he was even more delighted with the intensity the Wizards displayed on defense.

“We’ve played the last two games with a lot more passion, force and trust than we’ve had in the last two to three weeks,” Jordan said. “Our defense has gotten better, and that’s helping us.”

Washington held the Bulls to 39.3 percent shooting.

The victory marks the fifth time this season the Wizards have won back-to-back games. They’ll bid for their first three-game winning streak when the Los Angeles Lakers come to town tomorrow afternoon.

Last night the Wizards played a complete game, particularly in the fourth quarter when they held the Bulls to 28.6 percent shooting.

Rookie point guard Kirk Hinrich led the Bulls with 23 points and seven assists. Chicago also got a double-double from center Eddy Curry (18 points, 10 rebounds).

Down by 11 points early in the third quarter, the Wizards used a 21-9 run to go ahead for good 68-67 with 3:37 left in the quarter.

The Wizards opened by scoring the game’s first 12 points. Chicago, which missed its first nine shots, didn’t score until Antonio Davis sank a hook shot with 7:06 remaining in the first.

The Wizards shot the ball exceptionally well in the first quarter, connecting on 63.2 percent. Stackhouse, who is still not 100 percent after missing the team’s first 45 games with a knee injury, paced the Wizards with eight points on 4-for-4 shooting.

But the Bulls, behind 11 first-quarter points from Curry, began to chip away at Washington’s lead and eventually got it down to 24-18 heading into the second.

Chicago, which never led in the first quarter, continued its strong play into the second, scoring the quarter’s first six points to tie the game 24-24.

The Bulls found their shooting touch before halftime, converting 10 of 20 shots. Washington, meanwhile, cooled substantially, making 10 of 26.

With their shots falling and the Wizards suddenly struggling, Chicago built its second-quarter lead as high as 44-36. However, the Wizards closed the half with a bit of a flourish to close within 49-47.

Chicago’s Jerome Williams did not re-enter the game in the second half after suffering a sprained tendon in his left knee.

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