- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

With a flurry of free throws, the Washington Wizards went over the .500 mark last night for the first time since Nov. 19.

The Wizards outscored the Warriors 129-124 in front of 13,228 at MCI Center as guard Gilbert Arenas set a franchise record with 23 free throws made and tied his own record with 25 attempts. The Wizards made 48 of 55 free throws, including 17 in a row in the final 2:13.

The victory gave the Wizards (24-23) a winning record for the first time since nine games into the season, when they had lost the first three of what would be a five-game losing streak.

“The .500 mark may be a big issue when you guys talk about it to our guys. But we’ve got a ways to go,” said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, whose team has won 11 of 15. “We are improving, and we have to keep it going. Whether we are 10 games over or 10 games under, it’s still the same mind-set: go to work, go to practice and continue to improve in every area.”

An apparent snub as an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve, Arenas — who still could be added to the team by commissioner David Stern — finished with 45 points after going 15-for-15 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and also had seven assists. It was Arenas’ sixth 40-point effort of the season.

The Wizards, playing the third of a five-game homestand — they still welcome Cleveland tomorrow night and Philadelphia on Sunday — had held seven of their previous eight opponents under 100 points. But they had trouble on defense last night, except early in the fourth quarter.

Up 91-88 at the start of the final period, the Wizards went on a 7-0 run that helped them establish a lead they would never relinquish. Things got somewhat dicey for the Wizards down the stretch against the Warriors, who were playing the first of three straight road games.

Following an offensive foul on Arenas, Golden State’s Baron Davis, who finished with 28 points and 13 assists, condensed some of the worst basketball of his career into a span of about 20 seconds.

With the Wizards up 115-111, Davis missed a pair of free throws, then he picked up his sixth foul on Washington’s Antawn Jamison with 37.6 seconds to play.

Jason Richardson led Golden State with 31 points.

Jamison, who also missed out on returning to the All-Star Game as a reserve, according to team sources, finished with 18 points and six rebounds. He made two free throws to put the game out of reach.

Arenas wasn’t the only player to break the 30-point barrier for the Wizards. Caron Butler, who went for 20 points in the first half, scored a season-high 34, marking the first time this season that two Wizards have scored more than 30 in the same game. Butler also had 15 rebounds, four assists and three steals, prompting glowing praise from Golden State’s Richardson.

“He can do that on any given night,” Richardson said. “He is that type of player. He is the X-factor, and he stepped up tonight.”

The last time two Wizards accomplished that feat was April 15, 2005, when both Arenas (33) and Larry Hughes (31), who now plays for Cleveland, did so.

In the early going the Wizards displayed little of the defensive tenacity that had been a hallmark of their recent games.

With the score tied 15-15 following an Arenas jumper midway through the first quarter, the Warriors used a 19-6 run to go ahead 34-21 just four minutes later.

But the Wizards, who gave up a season-high 35 points in the first quarter, rallied back. With Butler scoring 12 points in the period, Washington closed out the first quarter on an 11-1 run to get within three. By halftime, the game was tied 62-62.

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