WASHINGTON (AP)—Even a knee injury to Antawn Jamison couldn’t mask the significance of a victory over the Detroit Pistons, a Washington Wizards win so big that even coach Eddie Jordan threw trash-talking caution to the wind—at least for a second.
“That team is a very good team. Are we done with them?” Jordan asked.
Yes, coach, the Wizards and Pistons won’t meet again in the regular season.
“So,” Jordan said, “we kicked their butts.”
Gilbert Arenas had 36 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in Tuesday night’s 104-99 victory that kept the Wizards atop the Eastern Conference and gave the teams a 2-2 split in the season series, leveling the first tiebreaker should they finish the regular season with the same record. Washington beat Detroit twice in five days, having won 99-96 on the road last week.
But the Wizards also left the court anxious for news about Jamison, who sprained his left knee after colliding with teammate DeShawn Stevenson under the basket during a fast break with 6:29 to play in the first quarter.
Jordan said Jamison will not travel to Toronto for Wednesday’s game against the Raptors and will undergo an MRI on Thursday.
“Then we’ll take it from there,” Jordan said.
Jamison, averaging 19.3 points and 7.9 rebounds, hyperextended the same knee against Boston on Jan. 20. He was given two days off from practice last week to rest and responded with his two best games of the season: 35 points against Detroit and 34 points against Boston on Sunday.
Jamison has yet to miss a start this season and would be difficult to replace if he’s out for any extended period—he, Arenas and Caron Butler form the NBA’s highest-scoring trio at a combined 70 points per game—but the Wizards persevered without him Tuesday to win for the seventh time in eight games.
Stevenson picked some of the slack, scoring 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Butler finished with 13 points. Arenas played 44 minutes, while Butler logged 46. Calvin Booth and Jarvis Hayes got extra minutes coming off the bench.
“We’ve won some games even without Gilbert over the last year or two,” Jordan said. “Look at Cleveland tonight—they killed Golden State without LeBron (James), so things like that happen in the league. You can withstand it for a couple of games, but in the long run you eventually wear down.”
Washington shot 61 percent in the first quarter, led by 19 points midway through the second, then held off the Pistons after Detroit pulled within single digits in the fourth. Arenas, who scored 14 points in the final period, converted a three-point play with 1:44 to play to restore a 10-point lead.
The Pistons made one final push, due largely to the Wizards’ three missed free throws in the final 30 seconds, but Tayshaun Prince then missed a 3-pointer that would have cut the lead to two.
“A lot of times what happens when a team comes out and they hit boom-boom, a couple of shots right away, it’s like you’re hit with a knockout punch early, and you’re staggered,” Detroit coach Flip Saunders said. “We didn’t react real good after that—right away. We wasted a little bit of time.”
“When Jamison went down, that was a plus for us,” Billups said. “We focused a little more on Caron and Gilbert. Gilbert hit some tough, tough shots with hands in his face and kept their runs going.”
Hamilton, Billups and Saunders were all whistled for technical fouls. … The Wizards have won eight straight home games against East opponents. … The game featured the two teams that lead the NBA in fewest turnovers, but both exceeded their season averages. Detroit (averaging 12.2) finished with 16, while Washington (13.3) had 14. … The Wizards have held three straight opponents under 100 points for the first time this season. … With the All-Star reserves to be announced Thursday, Jordan made a final case for Butler, who entered the game as the only player in the East averaging 20 points and eight rebounds: “What other forwards have the numbers, and what other forwards are playing on a first-place team?” Jordan said. “I think it’s hands down.”