- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 11, 2005

Don’t blame this one on Gilbert Arenas.

Playing with a bad back that has been bothering for him about a week, Arenas turned in a spectacular one-man show. His teammates, though, were not able to do their part as the Washington Wizards missed out on a chance to grab a share of first place in the Southeast Division.

The Wizards wasted Arenas’ 42-point effort and dropped their second straight game 118-111 to the Chicago Bulls before 18,833 at MCI Center.

It’s a shame Arenas’ 10th career 40-point game was in vain. His back’s not feeling any better, either.

Arenas said his status is day-to-day after he was hammered on a layup attempt with 1:46 left in the game. Arenas said the entire right side of his body was hurting and he may need to sit out tonight’s game at the Miami Heat.

“I don’t know, it’s day-by-day now,” Arenas said. “I’ve got a real bad bruise on my butt bone and groin area and we’re going to take it day by day.”

With the loss, the Wizards (8-10) fell two games under .500 for the first time this season. Had they won, Washington would have been tied with the division-leading Heat (10-10).

Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich also turned in an eye-opening game with 22 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds. Guard Chris Duhon’s 24 points led six Chicago players in double figures.

The Wizards enjoyed a 111-102 lead with 3:06 left and didn’t score another point the rest of the way. Arenas was just two points shy of tying his career high and just one point shy of matching his season high.

With 2:06 left and the Wizards leading 111-107, it looked like Arenas would equal his career high, but referee Joe Crawford called Arenas for a charge when Bulls forward Andres Nocioni stepped under him on a floating shot through the lane. Arenas made the shot, but Crawford waved off the basket.

“Sometimes, if there is a call there, they [referees] don’t want to see it, they don’t want to see it,” Arenas said. “There are plenty of times when you get calls you shouldn’t have and you get calls you don’t [deserve]. That’s just the way the NBA is.”

This was the first meeting of the season between last season’s Eastern Conference first-round playoff opponents — a series the Wizards rallied to win 4-2 after falling two games behind.

This time, the Bulls were unrecognizable in their red and blue throwback jerseys from the 1946-50 Chicago Stags. Early in the game, the Bulls got into quick foul trouble and had no answer for Arenas. The Wizards took a 19-10 in the first quarter.

Arenas, who led all scorers with 23 points in the first half, took a breather with 10:52 before halftime when Antonio Daniels spelled Washington’s scoring machine. With Arenas on the bench, the Bulls outscored the Wizards 10-2 during the next four minutes and claimed a 34-31 lead.

The Bulls, coming off a 93-80 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, led 56-47 at the half.

Arenas, the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer coming into last night at 27.1 points a game, turned in a sub-par performance Thursday in his last outing with a 17-point game at the Indiana Pacers.

Whenever Arenas scores fewer than 20 points in a game, he usually explodes the next game. In those five games, he has averaged 33.6 points. Despite the back injury, he made 11 of 22 shots from the floor (four of seven from 3-point range) and 16 of 20 free throws last night.

“Gilbert was terrific and he was playing with some back pain and tried to gut it out at the end,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “He has been trying to stretch his back for the last couple of days. It just tightened up on him at the end of the game.”

Arenas added a team-high seven assists and four rebounds. He brought the Wizards back when he scored 12 points in the third quarter, tying the game 84-84 when he made two of three free throws with 1.5 seconds left.

“The guy is tremendous,” Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said of Arenas. “He’s doing it all. We have to support him.”

Seven-foot center Brendan Haywood scored a season-high 16 points for the Wizards, including 10 in the third. Jamison scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half and had 12 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season. Caron Butler scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.

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