- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 26, 2005

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Washington Wizards finally beat the Detroit Pistons — and overcame one of their biggest weaknesses to do it.

Gilbert Arenas scored a game-high 39 points as the Wizards pulled out a stunning 120-114 double overtime win in front of a hushed crowd of 22,076, ending a 10-game losing streak to the Pistons and a five-game losing streak overall.

“Our backs were against the wall; there was no place for us to go,” Arenas said. “We’ve lost to every caliber of team you can lose to. We just had to come out and give it our all. We have to play like this every night. I told the guys after the game that we can do this. We can fight. We can’t come out and play 20 minutes of basketball like we did against Orlando and then try to win it at the end. We have to play like we did tonight. We have to go after it.”

The win was the Wizards’ first against the Pistons since Dec. 4, 2002, and their first double-overtime win since a victory over Indiana on Jan. 4, 2003. And Washington (6-6) did all of that, surprisingly enough, at the free throw line, where they have struggled this season.

The Wizards held the Pistons without a field goal in overtime until Richard Hamilton converted a three-point play to pull the Pistons within 112-110. But the Wizards, who made 14 of 16 free throws in the second overtime and 38 of 46 in the game, put the game away when Arenas made a jumper and Antawn Jamison made two free throws to give the Wizards a 116-110 lead they would not relinquish.

Jamison played a career-high 56 minutes and finished with 22 points and a season-high 20 rebounds. Arenas played a career-high 53 minutes and had 39 points and eight assists. Jared Jeffries grabbed 15 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Caron Butler scored a season-high 27 and made nine of 10 free throws.

“I’ve been in situations like this before, and so have the guys on this team,” Butler said of the five-game slide. “You have it in life. People start to talk about what you can’t do, and they start to doubt you and say you can’t deal with adversity. We got over the hump tonight.”

Chucky Atkins, who once played for the Pistons, scored a season-high 20 points, going 7-for-10 from the field, including 6-for-7 from 3-point range.

Detroit (9-2), which lost on its homecourt for the first time this season, was led by Rasheed Wallace’s 33 points and 11 rebounds. Chauncey Billups added 21 points, and Tayshaun Prince finished with 17 points.

Arenas set up the first overtime when he sank a pair of free throws with 2.3 seconds left in regulation.

Wallace got a good look from 25 feet, but the shot bounced off the rim as time ran out with the game tied 95-95.

The Wizards looked as if they might have the game wrapped up in the first overtime, but Butler missed the second of two free throws late in the period. And when play resumed, Detroit’s Ben Wallace converted a layup to tie the game at 104-104.

Fouled on the play by Washington’s Michael Ruffin, Ben Wallace missed the potential game winner with 0.7 seconds left, clearing the way for the second overtime.

The frustration dogging the Wizards in this matchup was exemplified in their first meeting with the Pistons last season, when Detroit rallied from a 17-point halftime lead to eke out a 107-105 victory at MCI Center.

The Wizards lost a 17-point lead again last night, then saw Atkins cut what had been an eight-point Detroit lead to 86-83 on three consecutive 3-point baskets.

Atkins hit his fourth 3-pointer of the quarter with a little more than five minutes to play in the game to tie the score at 86-86. But he fouled out shortly thereafter.

After Detroit’s Prince tied the game at 90-90, Jamison drilled a 3-pointer.

After two possessions in which the Pistons didn’t even get a shot off, Billups tied the game at 93-93 on a 3-pointer from the right side that forced the Wizards to call a timeout with 47.3 seconds left.

Washington got off three shot attempts, all of which failed. At the other end, Rasheed Wallace slammed home a putback dunk to give the Pistons a 95-93 advantage. Then Arenas hit the free throws that sent the game into overtime.

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