- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 21, 2007

Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan stood in front of his bench with his hands on his hips, motionless as his team seemed to be giving away a sure win.

The Boston Celtics came into Verizon Center with their two leading scorers out and on a six-game losing streak.

The Wizards were fresh off their most impressive win after maintaining first place in the Southeast Division one night earlier. Washington sought its fourth straight victory and 10th consecutive home win.

But the Wizards blew a 21-point lead and had to rally to force overtime before finally escaping with a 115-110 win before a sellout crowd of 20,173.

“We started off great,” said Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, who finished with 22 points while making only 10 of 26 shots, including a 2-for-9 effort from 3-point range. “We got that lead and got lackadaisical and they made that great run.”

Arenas and Caron Butler (23 points) highlighted the meltdown with missed dunks. And Antawn Jamison (23 points) suffered a scare after banging his knee with Boston’s Delonte West but later returned.

Washington could not celebrate until the final seconds. Boston rookie Allan Ray had a chance to tie the game with his team trailing by three. However, Butler slapped the ball away with less than 10 seconds to play. Antonio Daniels picked up the ball and tossed it ahead to Arenas for the clinching layup.

“I knew he wanted to shoot a 3-pointer,” said Butler, who added 11 rebounds and seven assists. “Even though I was giving him the lane, I could sense he still wanted to take a three.”

Otherwise, it was a second-half debacle for the Wizards. They blew a 75-54 third-quarter lead and had to come back from six down to force overtime.

The Celtics played without Paul Pierce, who missed his 15th straight game with a sprained left foot, and Wally Szczerbiak (sprained ankles and left knee). Nonetheless, they received powerful performances from Ryan Gomes (31 points) and Ray.

The Villanova product finished with 20 points, including 18 in the second half as he made four of five 3-pointers. Al Jefferson also contributed with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

“They ran plays well and had good spacing,” said Jordan, whose team extended its division lead over Orlando to 2 games. “We could not get a handle on Jefferson and when we double him, Allan Ray was making shots. … Was that Ray Allen or Allan Ray?”

The Wizards had their chance to win in regulation as Arenas had the ball with the game tied 102-102. But the All-Star had an uncharacteristic miss from 3-point range as time expired.

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