- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

BOSTON — As he did last year, Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan has been throwing around the term “winning time” for the past few weeks.

This season his players have begun using the term, too.

When it became “winning time” — the moment the Wizards need to seize control and put the game away — against the Boston Celtics last night, Gilbert Arenas did just that. He scored 13 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter of a 108-91 victory in front of 18,524 at TD Banknorth Garden.

“Winning time is when the game is that much more important,” said Arenas, who made 14 of 22 field goals. “You don’t just want to win. You have to do whatever it takes to win.”

This was by no means a one-man show, though. Washington’s Caron Butler scored 26 points on 12-for-19 shooting . He also matched a season high in steals (five) and pulled down six rebounds . Reserve guard Antonio Daniels had a season-high nine assists to go along with eight points.

“It was a good effort from a lot of guys who are really on the same page right now,” Butler said.

Coupled with Milwaukee’s loss to Orlando last night, the Wizards got a nice bonus with this victory. They now lead the Bucks by 2-1/2 games in the race for the fifth seed in the East. They have eight games remaining in the regular season.

The Wizards (39-35) dominated play in the fourth quarter against Boston (31-44) , highlighting the difference between the teams. The Wizards are jockeying for playoff positioning, while Boston, which made just three of 14 field goals in the fourth, is trying to creep in the back door.

Leading 91-85 with 7:26 to play, the Wizards went on a 17-6 run, capped by Arenas’ 3-pointer from just beyond the top of the key. During that stretch, the Wizards held the Celtics without a field goal.

“We know this is winning time,” Jordan said after the game. “Gil [Arenas] knows it’s winning time. We have talked in terms of us clinching like the top four teams in the East; we’ve got to do something significant. Gil knows that he’s the guy that can be ready for crunch time, that he can always be the difference maker.

The three previous meetings between the teams were decided by a combined four points. Two of them went into overtime.

But last night the Wizards stepped up their defense at the crucial moment.

“Our defense was the turning point down the stretch,” Jordan said.

And who could argue?

While the Wizards were forcing the Celtics into taking bad shots, they remained poised, playing with a confidence Boston just couldn’t match.

Even the Celtics’ coach could see it, especially when Arenas was involved.

“In the second half, when we cut the lead, you see he literally just said, ‘I’m taking this game over. There’s nothing you can do about it.’ He’s just a tough matchup for us,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said.

While the Celtics slumped at the end, the Wizards benefited from a hot start, particularly from Butler.

He had 12 by the end of the first quarter, sparking a 13-2 run in the first that gave the Wizards a 23-12 lead with 4:51 left in the quarter. By halftime, he had 19.

Boston trailed by just six points at the start of the second quarter and continued to climb back in to the game mostly behind the scoring of reserve Tony Allen.

The Celtics have shot the ball well from the floor against the Wizards all season, making more than 49 percent of their field goals in the first three meetings.

Both teams shot well through the first half last night, with the Wizards hitting 53.5 percent and the Celtics 55.3 percent.

The Celtics also shot well in the third quarter, entering the fourth having made 54.4 percent of their shots. But after their wretched shooting in the fourth, they finished at just 47.9 percent.

The Wizards, however, made 45 of 85 field goals (52.9 percent).

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