- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Hibachi definitely got going last night.

After watching his team struggle for the better part of three quarters, Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas orchestrated a fourth-quarter comeback that fueled the Wizards to a much-needed 109-93 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers last night at Verizon Center.

Arenas scored 12 of his 20 points and recorded three of his five assists in the fourth, lifting the Wizards in front of a sellout crowd. It was the most points Arenas has scored since coming back from a 66-game layoff. He also logged 26 minutes, which are the most since he returned five games ago.

With the victory, the Wizards (42-38) remained in sole possession of fifth place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. Washington also pulled within 1½ games of Cleveland, which ranks fourth in the East.

With the Wizards down 84-78 after three quarters, Arenas drilled a 3-pointer to open the period and pull his team within three points, then hit a fadeaway jumper the next trip down the court to cut the deficit to 84-83.

Then after the Wizards forced a 76ers turnover, Arenas knocked down a pull-up jumper to give his team an 85-84 lead with 10:27 left.

Philadelphia called a timeout and tied the game with a foul shot from Louis Williams, but Antawn Jamison helped Washington reclaim the lead with a putback on the other end.

An Andre Iguodala 3-pointer put Philadelphia up 88-87 with 8:29 to play, but Arenas made a reverse layup to continue the seesaw battle.

“You can tell he’s getting his mojo back,” said Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson, who scored 19 points, including five 3-pointers, of Arenas. “He’s pushing the ball fast, he’s doing the moves he used to do. I’m just glad to see him out there looking like the old Gilbert.”

Then Arenas — who on the night shot 4-for-9 from 3-point range — handed out three assists on consecutive trips to the basket as the Wizards strung together a 10-2 run. Jamison capped the scoring spree when Arenas zipped the ball to Darius Songaila, who in turn zipped it to Jamison for a layup that extended the Wizards’ lead to 99-91 with 5:10 left.

“It’s a world of a difference,” Jamison said of having Arenas back on the court. “You miss it. And for him to come out there and play the way he did tonight speaks volumes of how much he means to this team and what he can bring to this team and I’m glad we’re getting him back at this point, going into the playoffs because he can make that much of a difference. He makes us go.”

While the Wizards caught fire, the 76ers went scoreless for nine minutes. Washington outscored Philadelphia 31-9 in the fourth quarter and capped the game with a 15-2 run.

“We really started to get to shooters on the perimeter, started to take care of people in the paint and rebounding at the rim and protecting the rim against layups,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “Gil was special at the offensive end. Darius was really good; we were sharing the basketball: we had 24 assists on [40] field goals. The playmaking in the fourth, really complemented our defense.”

Jamison led the Wizards with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Five other Washington players also scored in double digits.

After falling behind 7-6 with 9:09 left in the first quarter, the Wizards trailed up until the final three minutes of the second quarter, when they reeled off a 12-3 run to close out the first half with a 57-53 lead.

The advantage came despite Philadelphia posting better shooting percentages both from the field (57.9-44.7) and the foul line (100 percent to 80). But 3-point shooting made the difference for the Wizards. They made seven of 11 attempts, while the 76ers hit four of seven 3-pointers.

But Philadelphia reclaimed the lead with 7:45 left in the third quarter when they went up 63-62. The teams traded leads in the next two minutes, but the 76ers pulled ahead 84-78 heading into the fourth quarter.

Wizards report

Last night at Verizon Center

SEEN AND HEARD

DeShawn Stevenson extended his consecutive starts streak to 248 games despite suffering a bruised tail bone in Friday night’s loss at Detroit. Stevenson said in the locker room before the game that his tail bone was “sore as ever” but sounded as if he never considered missing the game.

Stevenson, who three years ago played half a season on a torn meniscus in his knee, pulled on a pair of spandex shorts with thigh and hip and tailbone pads inserted in them. It looked like something a football player would wear. Then he pulled his game shorts over them.

The Wizards, however, did play without All-Star forward Caron Butler, who suffered a bruised right knee in Friday night’s game It was actually the second time in the same week that Butler injured the knee. He collided with forward Darius Songaila in Tuesday’s practice, bruising the knee, but played Wednesday against the Celtics.

It was the 22nd game that Butler has missed this season. He missed a game in December with two sprained ankles, then missed a total of 19 games with a small labral tear in his hip in late January and a good part of February. Then on March 31 Butler sat with a strained hamstring. The Wizards are 9-13 without Butler this season.

QUOTABLE

“That and my wife not arguing with me. That would be a perfect world. I would take those two things.”

— Wizards coach Eddie Jordan on Gilbert Arenas’ big production in limited minutes

BY THE NUMBERS

31-9 Fourth-quarter margin for the Wizards.

Mike Jones


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