- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

This time, at least, Gilbert Arenas did not turn his back to the basket, scowling, even before the ball sliced through the net for the game-winning basket.

The Utah Jazz can take some consolation from that.

Arenas hit a 3-pointer as time expired yesterday to send the Washington Wizards to a 114-111 victory over the Jazz at Verizon Center. And this time he merely raised his hands in triumph as he watched his shot drop.

Arenas tied a Verizon Center record with 51 points — 31 of them in the second half — in another breathtaking performance in a season full of buzzer-beaters and dazzling displays by the 25-year-old Wizards guard. He set the franchise scoring record with 60 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 17 and followed that up with 54 against the Phoenix Suns four days later.

Arenas yesterday tied the arena record set by Michael Jordan against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 29, 2001, and he now owns three of the 10 50-point performances in franchise history.

The victory ended a two-game losing streak for the Wizards (21-16) and again demonstrated the “swag” that now goes hand-in-hand with Arenas’ game.

On Jan. 3, he hit a 32-foot shot at the buzzer to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, turning his back to the basket before the ball dropped through the net. He delivered with the same kind of confidence down the stretch yesterday.

Arenas found himself in an unlikely shooting battle with 6-foot-11 Mehmet Okur in the fourth quarter of a tight game, with both players pulling up and connecting on improbable jumpers. Okur finished with a career-high 38 points, and Arenas scored 12, including three 3-pointers, in the final 2:09.

The game seemed headed for overtime when Carlos Boozer (27 points, 13 rebounds) tied the score for the Jazz at 111-111 on a layup with 11 seconds remaining.

The Wizards called a timeout, and coach Eddie Jordan spread the floor with shooters Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Jarvis Hayes and Antonio Daniels. The Jazz, however, declined to double-team Arenas, choosing instead to play him man up with Deron Williams.

Mistake.

Arenas swayed left and right with the ball, checked the clock, then rose and hit the game-winner from about 24 feet as time expired.

“Once you feel it coming out of your hand, I knew it was going in,” said Arenas, adding that he didn’t expect a double-team. “I can see that it had great arc, and it was lined up with the rim. So I was celebrating pre-make.

“I knew it was game over. I was feeling it right there. If I had missed it, it would have been overtime. If I missed it, nobody would have said anything about it. I make it, and it’s a glorious shot.”

Asked about the logic of double-teaming Arenas, Jordan played coy.

“Don’t give up something that the other 29 coaches might figure out,” Jordan said, joking.

Before the game, Arenas, who has been nursing a sore right shoulder, told teammate DeShawn Stevenson he was going to go for 37 points and hit the game winner.

“Well, the game-winner was correct,” Arenas said.

Arenas finished 14-for-29 from the field and 16-for-17 from the free throw line. He was 7-for-12 from 3-point range.

The Wizards entered the contest having lost back-to-back games for the first time in six weeks. A sluggish start put them on course to make it three.

The Jazz led by 16 points in the first half, making 51 percent of their field goals and getting pretty much any shot they wanted. The Wizards, meanwhile, made just 44 percent of their field goals in the first half and trailed 58-48 at the break.

Washington played inspired basketball at both ends in the second half, holding the Jazz to just 15-for-39 shooting (38.5 percent) and opening up a four-point lead by the end of the third quarter.

Arenas’ effort overshadowed good performances by Caron Butler (21 points, seven rebounds) and Brendan Haywood, who finished with his fifth double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) of the season.

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