- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Washington Wizards remain undefeated at home this season after a 116-111 come-from-behind victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at Verizon Center last night, but it was anything but easy.

In what would be best described as a Jekyll-to-Hyde-and-back-to-Jekyll performance, the Wizards (3-2) blew a 16-point lead, getting outscored 40-23, and then finished off the Bucks (2-4) with a series of gritty plays that came at the end of a 40-point fourth quarter.

As is usually the case when the game is on the line, the Wizards relied on the trio of Gilbert Arenas (29 points, 11 assists), Caron Butler (14 points, 10 rebounds and three steals) and Antawn Jamison (24 points, eight rebounds).

They were at their best in the fourth, when they combined for 35 of the team’s 40 points.

With the scored tied 106-106, Jamison grabbed a short jumper by Butler out of the air and converted a layup.

The Bucks failed to score on their next two possessions, and once again Butler and Jamison helped build the Wizards’ lead.

Butler’s pass to Jamison was deflected. However, Jamison still managed to corral the ball and scored on another layup for a 110-106 lead.

Milwaukee’s Michael Redd sank a pair of free throws to cut the Wizards’ lead to 110-108, but Arenas, who was held scoreless in the third quarter, hit a layup with 32.5 seconds left.

After the Bucks’ Mo Williams missed a long jumper, Butler grabbed a long rebound and found Arenas breaking away for a layup and a 114-108 lead.

The Wizards also received strong performances from reserves Antonio Daniels (13 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Jarvis Hayes, who scored in double figures for the first time this season with 15 points.

A 3-pointer by Charlie Villanueva pulled the Bucks to within 114-111 with 13.2 seconds left, but Arenas put the game out of reach with a pair of free throws with 12.7 seconds left.

“It was a combination of veteran savvy, poise and confidence,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We have some great leadership. We have players that can score and have some tough players who can dig it out.”

Butler provided a spark late in the game by getting his hands on balls, deflecting passes and just outhustling the opposition.

Butler said the Wizards had extra motivation because of a 100-97 Milwaukee victory last season at Verizon Center. In that game last December the Bucks, who also battled the Wizards down to the wire for a playoff spot, won on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Williams. The Bucks celebrated on the floor, which rubbed Butler the wrong way.

“That was one of our worst losses last year when Mo Williams hit the deep 3 over Chucky Atkins,” Butler said. “To lose that game like that, we kept that game in the back of our minds. We remember them celebrating on our floor and we were anxious to play against them again. It wasn’t deja vu.”

Early on, it the Wizards appeared headed for a blowout victory. Washington scored 59 points in the first half, shot 53 percent from the floor and it seemed once again to have its mojo going.

But the Bucks came out in the third quarter and locked the Wizards down. Milwaukee held the Wizards to just three baskets (3-for-16 shooting) and outscored them 34-17.

“They kind of sucked the life out of us a lit bit,” Jordan said. “We didn’t get defensive rebounds and we didn’t get into them defensively until the fourth quarter. They just got out of it — we were flat.”

The Wizards used a 24-14 run at the start of the fourth quarter to reclaim the lead. And they went ahead for good on Jamison’s layup with 1:48 left.

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