- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2006

After Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas sliced up the lowly New York Knicks for 46 points in just three quarters Saturday, one thing appears obvious: Earl Monroe’s franchise single-game scoring record is well within his reach.

Monroe, a Hall of Famer who was voted one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, scored 56 points for the Baltimore Bullets against the Los Angeles Lakers in a game that went to overtime on Feb. 13, 1968.

When Arenas left the 110-89 drubbing of the Knicks with 44.9 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the Wizards up 26, he received only a smattering of applause, probably because the fans packed into MCI Center thought they hadn’t seen the last of him for the night.

But Wizards coach Eddie Jordan had other plans.

While Jordan would have loved to have seen Arenas break the record, this was not a Kobe Bryant situation. The game was in control, unlike the night Bryant scored 81 points against Toronto earlier this season, when the Lakers trailed by 18 points in the third quarter before winning 122-104.

Jordan has too much respect for the Knicks — and particularly coach Larry Brown — to put Arenas back in the game. Jordan certainly would have stuck with Arenas into the fourth quarter if the outcome were in doubt.

The Wizards also need to make sure Arenas doesn’t get worn down. Yes, he’s just 24, but tonight’s game in Memphis will be the team’s third in four days.

“I’m coaching with respect for our opponent and respect toward us,” Jordan said Saturday. “We had a comfortable lead; we’ve got capable guys who will play the game the right way and manage the game and yet give Gil some duly needed rest. I’m not concerned about keeping Gil in there to break records, and I have respect for Larry Brown, his team and with what we’re trying to do as a team.”

Arenas was unaware of his point total when he left the game. He believed he would return during the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter. But the lead was 25 points by then, and Arenas, who could be named Eastern Conference player of the week today for the second straight week, realized he wasn’t getting back into the game.

“There was no point in going back in,” Arenas said yesterday. “I didn’t realize I was near the record. If I had gone back in there knowing that, I would have tried to get 60. That’s in my range. But at the same time, our team is too good this year for me to set goals like that.”

Arenas, who scored a career-high 47 against Miami on Dec. 30, 2005, is having the best season of his five-year career. In his third season with the Wizards, Arenas already has etched his name in the team’s record books.

Arenas made 23 of 25 free throws against Golden State on Feb. 8, tying his record for attempts and breaking Moses Malone’s record for free throws made (21).

He sank seven of 10 3-pointers against New York, one make shy of his personal best set against the Lakers on Feb. 28, 2004.

Arenas emphasizes he’s more concerned with securing victories than putting up eye-popping numbers, but he did walk away with one record Saturday night for the most points scored in a game in which a player has played 30 minutes or less. The mark was held by Boston’s Larry Bird, who scored 43 points in 29 minutes against Cleveland on March 19, 1986.

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