Coming off one of his poorer shooting nights of the season, Arenas looks to return to his high-scoring ways as the Washington Wizards (22-16) take on the Magic (22-17) at Amway Arena on Friday.
Arenas scored 51 points in a 114-111 victory over Utah on Monday, capped by a winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. His performance Wednesday was far less effective, as the New York Knicks hounded him into a 4-for-14, 16-point effort in Washington’s 99-98 win.
“The ‘hibachi’ grill didn’t get turned on tonight,” said Arenas, referring to the word he sometimes yells when taking a shot. “I’m not going to go out there and try to beat the double team the whole night. That’s pointless.”
Butler, who had 27 points and a career-high 10 assists, said that even though Arenas didn’t factor physically in the play, his presence was a big part.
“So much of the focus was on Gilbert, that enabled us to get open,” he said. “DeShawn made a great play. We made eye contact and he threw it to me on the backdoor slip and I just finished real strong on the dunk.”
It was the first time in six games this season that the Wizards won when Arenas failed to score 20 points.
While it’s encouraging for Washington to finally win without a big contribution from its star, Arenas has bounced back immediately from those subpar performances this season. He’s followed up each of those games with point totals of 44, 28, 38, 32 and Monday’s 51. The Wizards went 4-1 in those games.
The Magic are already well aware of what Arenas, who averages 29.9 points per game, can do. He scored 24 points in the Wizards’ 106-103 loss in the teams’ first meeting Nov. 6, and had 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter of Washington’s 112-111 win Dec. 29.
“Well, they’ve got a little bird down there named Gilbert who’s not too bad,” Orlando’s Keyon Dooling said after the last matchup. “He’s one of those guys who’s special. He’ll go down in history as being one of the greatest. He showed his greatness in the second half. He just turned it on and it’s almost impossible to guard him.”
Dooling and the Magic are coming off an 84-78 overtime loss to New Orleans on Tuesday. Dwight Howard scored 17 points and had 15 rebounds, and Hedo Turkoglu added 16 points and seven boards, but Orlando finished 1-3 on its four-game road trip.
The Magic’s point total was a season low, and they scored only 14 points and shot 5-of-17 with six turnovers in the second quarter. They failed to score in overtime until the final 10 seconds and finished the game shooting 34.9 percent.
Following Friday’s contest, Orlando and Washington don’t meet again until their final matchup April 17. Each of the last nine games between the clubs have been decided by fewer than 10 points.