- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 5, 2005

TORONTO - Life without Larry Hughes presents some problems for the Washington Wizards. Last night against Toronto, they got a chance to see how bad life could be without Hughes and Gilbert Arenas, and the result was not pretty.

Arenas was ejected in the third quarter of a game the Wizards appeared to have under control. Without him in the lineup and with Hughes waiting on the sideline for his broken thumb to mend, Washington fell to the Raptors 103-100 before 15,546 at Air Canada Centre.

The loss was especially ugly because the Wizards led by 22 points in the third quarter. It dropped their record to 26-19 and extended their season-high losing streak to four games.

Arenas, who had 21 points by halftime, was tossed by referee Bill Kennedy with 4:39 left in the third quarter and Washington ahead 74-59. On the previous trip downcourt, Arenas and Kennedy exchanged words when Arenas thought he had been fouled while attempting a jump shot.

On the Wizards’ next possession, with Arenas still complaining, Kennedy quickly assessed him a pair of technical fouls and sent him to the locker room.

From there, the Raptors (20-27), who tied the franchise record for the largest comeback, outscored the Wizards 44-26. Toronto scored 60 points in the second half.

“Obviously, [my ejection] hurt us a lot,” said Arenas, who began the game making eight of nine field goals. “We were beating the [stuff] out of them. They got energy off my ejection, and they wound up pulling the game out.”

Arenas said he was “shocked” by being booted, “especially when Jalen Rose was cussing out the ref at the end of the first half. At least give me a technical for cussing. Let me say one bad word. Don’t give me a technical for slapping the ball hard.”

In ending a six-game losing streak to the Wizards, Toronto was clearly elated with Arenas’ dismissal.

“I think you have to send Gilbert Arenas a Christmas card,” said Rose, who led Toronto with 26 points. “We caught a break.”

Yet Wizards coach Eddie Jordan didn’t blame the defeat on the ejection as much as on his team’s lack of composure in the second half.

In the first half, the Wizards connected on 25 of 37 field goal attempts (67.6 percent). They matched their season high for an opening quarter when they scored 36 points on 16-for-22 shooting.

But none of that mattered in the second half after Arenas was tossed, especially not in the final 5:49 when Toronto outscored the Wizards 22-8.

“They stepped up to the plate, and they really played, and we didn’t,” Jordan said. “They just kept coming. There is some toughness that we didn’t display. Not to say that we weren’t tough, but there are certain points of the game where you have to take a stand, protect at the rim and make plays at the offensive end. They made plays, and we didn’t. We didn’t keep our composure.”

Arenas’ ejection marked the first time this season any Wizards player or coach has been kicked out.

Antawn Jamison paced the Wizards with 30 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Jarvis Hayes had 18 points and seven rebounds, and Juan Dixon came off the bench to collect 15 points and six assists.

Rose was just one of five Toronto players scoring in double figures. Donyell Marshall had 20 points in reserve, Chris Bosh finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Rafer Alston scored all 16 of his points in the second half. Milt Palacio added 11 points.

“Our guys just didn’t quit,” Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. “Obviously, Arenas getting thrown out was huge because he was on a roll. We preach to our guys in all walks of life to control your emotions. As soon as you let emotions get the best of you, it will always cost you. It not only costs you, it costs the guys on the team.”

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