- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It wasn’t an impressive offensive display like those the Washington Wizards crafted earlier this season at Verizon Center.

But considering their current situation — a four-game skid plagued by indecision and trepidation — the Wizards will take a win of any sort. That was the attitude in the Washington locker room last night after an ugly 96-95 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in front of 14,403.

“They made it tough for us tonight,” Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said. “It wasn’t pretty, but we were fortunate that our defense kicked in at the end. This is not the way you draw them up, but we’ll definitely take them any way they come.”

Last night’s victory came 10 days after an 111-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. In between the Wizards (5-9) were average, ordinary and mostly bad.

They weren’t anything special last night, especially considering Gilbert Arenas (21 points, nine turnovers, seven assists), Antawn Jamison (18 points) and Caron Butler (21 points) combined to make just 16-for-46 from the field. The Wizards won despite committing 21 turnovers, which resulted in 21 Atlanta points.

But Butler has found a way to make himself invaluable to the Wizards this season despite having few plays called for him.

His 15-for-15 performance at the line tied Arenas’ team record for most free throws made in succession in a game. Butler’s final free throw last night extended his streak to 32 straight, and it turned out to be decisive.

With 1:04 left and the game tied at 93-93, Washington’s Antonio Daniels fed a streaking Butler who scored on a layup and was fouled on the play by Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, who finished with a game-high 33 points and eight assists.

Butler was just 3-for-10 from the field at the time of his layup.

“He didn’t shoot a high percentage from the field, but he got to the line and made his free throws,” a relieved Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “Getting a win tonight was good. We gutted it out at the defensive end.”

Jordan did voice his displeasure with Arenas’ nine turnovers.

“We’re going to ride him, but we need to get him a little bit more poised out there,” Jordan said of Arenas, who argued with a referee late in the game when he was called for a charge. “If you get caught up in calls and things like that, it’s been happening too long. We’ve got to fix that.”

Some of Arenas’ frustration no doubt is tied into his recent offensive struggles. In the last five games, Arenas has made just 34 of 103 field goals (33 percent).

“He’s just got to stay aggressive, and everything is going to pan out,” Butler said. “He has to continue to do what he does. He’s a star in this league. He’s going through some adversity now, but I think everything will turn in his favor.”

Washington received some good performances from its bench. Jarvis Hayes, who played tough defense on Johnson late in game, helping to force him to take potential winning shot under duress, finished with nine points. And backup center Brendan Haywood finished with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks.



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