Arenas scored 41 points Friday night, and the Wizards beat the Phoenix Suns 112-111 despite his poor foul shooting down the stretch.
Arenas made what proved to be the decisive free throw with 44 seconds to go, giving Washington a 112-109 lead on his first attempt. Then he missed three more, coming up two points short of his season high.
“It’s just one of those nights where it feels good, but they don’t drop,” said Arenas, who was 5-of-10 from the line and 15-of-24 from the floor. “You know, two of them went in the rim and came back out.”
Arenas could have iced the game with 12 seconds left, but he missed both foul shots, and Shawn Marion rebounded for the Suns.
At the other end, Steve Nash passed to Boris Diaw, who drove the right side but missed a jump hook. The Wizards’ Caron Butler knocked the ball out of bounds, and Phoenix got one shot with a fraction of a second left.
Jim Jackson passed to Nash, but his 20-footer from the side hit both sides of the rim and then popped out.
Butler scored 26 points for the Wizards, who had lost 12 of 17 games before beating Denver on Wednesday. Antawn Jamison had 22 points and 13 rebounds, leading the Wizards to a 52-30 domination of the glass, including 14 offensive rebounds.
“I told our guys that if we fight that hard, with that much sincerity, the basketball gods smile upon you,” Washington coach Eddie Jordan said.
He made a believer of Butler, who said: “The ball dropped our way, finally, and we’re very excited.”
Coupled with the Los Angeles Clippers’ win at Charlotte, the loss cost the Suns first place in the Pacific Division after just two days on top.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Marion said. “It was a tough loss. I’m a little frustrated.”
There were 32 lead changes and 16 ties in the game.
Phoenix seemed on the way to a win when it started the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run, going up 94-87 on Jones’ 3-pointer with 7:31 left in the game.
But the Wizards responded with a 10-2 spurt, going back ahead at 97-96 on a 3-pointer by Chucky Atkins with 5:53 to go.
“We didn’t put the hammer down,” Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni said. “There’s a point in the game when you have to do that, and we didn’t.”
Washington took a 69-63 lead, its biggest of the game, when Arenas dished off to Jamison for a jump hook with 7:28 left in the third quarter. But the lead changed hands eight times in the period before Arenas sent the Wizards to an 87-85 lead with the last of his six 3-pointers.
“The way I go is the way the team goes,” Arenas said. “So if I can get hot early, you know, it puts a lot of pressure on everybody, and then they free up Caron and Antawn.”
The Wizards led most of the first quarter, with Arenas scoring 14 points and Jamison 12. But no more than four points separated the teams in the first half, which ended with Washington up 57-55 after a free throw by Butler.
Wizards C Etan Thomas warmed up for the game, but the team decided to hold him out because of a left hip strain. … The win was Washington’s second in 17 games in Phoenix. … Jones started for the Suns a day after spending practice pedaling on a stationary bicycle to rehab his swollen right ankle. He missed four games because of the ankle before returning Tuesday against Seattle. … Butler made his second straight start after coming off the bench all season. … Arenas, who took nine 3-pointers, finished the game averaging 28.5 points, highest for the Wizards since Walt Bellamy averaged a team record 31.7 points in 1961-62.