Even a King must sometimes bow and kiss the feet.
That was the case last night at a sold-out Verizon Center. Gilbert Arenas pumped in a season-high 45 points to lead his teammates back into the win column as they defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-99 in front of 20,173 fans.
Caught in the throes of a three-game shooting slump in which he made just 18 of 62 from the field and five of 24 from long range, Arenas scorched the Cavaliers on 14-for-22 shooting, including 7-for-11 from behind the 3-point arc.
Arenas, as he is prone to do, came to Verizon Center early and, by his own estimation, took about 400 jumpers.
“I got in here at 3 o’clock and made about 250 3s,” Arenas said. “I’ve been in a slump the last three games, couldn’t buy a basket, couldn’t find my shot, couldn’t feel it.”
If he couldn’t feel it in those losses to New Jersey, New York and Detroit, he was wrapped all around it last night.
Arenas’ big night came on a night when the Wizards (4-5) debuted their new gold and black alternate uniforms. It also came with the Cavaliers (7-3) minus the services of Larry Hughes, the former Wizards guard who helped hold Arenas to 2-for-12 shooting and a season-low seven points in the season opener.
“I don’t think Larry could have stopped that either,” Arenas said with a smile.
Cleveland certainly couldn’t stop Washington in the third quarter, when the Wizards outscored the Cavaliers 31-16 to lead by 93-74 going into the fourth quarter. The Wizards led by as many as 26 points in the fourth.
Three other Wizards reached double figures. Antawn Jamison had 16 points, DeShawn Stevenson finished with 15 and Caron Butler posted his third double-double in five games, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Arenas’ heavy lifting allowed Wizards coach Eddie Jordan to give playing time to reserves like Andray Blatche, Roger Mason and Donell Taylor down the stretch.
One night after committing a season-high 19 turnovers, the Wizards didn’t commit a single turnover in the first half, but finished with 13.
The Wizards also won the rebounding battle 41-37.
Tempering the mood of the victory, however, was forward Jarvis Hayes’ departure from the game on a stretcher following a collision for a loose ball with 2:31 remaining and the Wizards up 111-90. Hayes fell to the ground and hit his head and his back while trying to block a shot by Cleveland’s Shannon Brown.
Hayes lay on the floor following the fall for at least five minutes before his head and back were secured and he was removed form the court in a stretcher. According to a team spokesperson, Hayes had movement in his lower and upper body.
Hayes was taken to Sibley Memorial Hospital in the District for observation.
“We’re really concerned about Jarvis,” Jordan said. “He hit his back as well as his head, so precautions are being taken and that is why he is at the hospital. That was the blemish on a pretty good performance.”
Although he had some electrifying moments, particularly late in the first half, “King James” was held mostly in check by the tandem of Stevenson and Butler.
In his previous seven games against Washington, James had averaged more than 34 points and shot better than 50 percent from the field.
But he appeared frustrated for most of last night and finished with 20 points on 8-for-20 shooting.
“DeShawn did a really good job on him. Jarvis did a good job, and Caron did a good job,” Jordan said. “We didn’t want him to help his teammates get layups. He has the capability of drawing the attention to him and getting his teammates open 3s and layups.”