Wizards take 2nd in row, beat Trail Blazers 97-92
WASHINGTON (AP)—The world didn’t come to a standstill when Gilbert Arenas(notes) was suspended indefinitely by the NBA, the season wasn’t canceled when he pleaded guilty to a felony. The Washington Wizards have to continue to show up for games and play them, and they’re actually doing OK.
Washington beat the Portland Trail Blazers 97-92 on Monday, giving the team a two-game winning streak for only the fourth time this season. There was a blowout loss at Cleveland hours after Arenas’ suspension was announced Jan. 6, but since then the Wizards are 3-4 and haven’t dropped a game by more than 12 points.
“We’re just trying to find a cure,” said captain Antawn Jamison(notes), who scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half. “And the only cure we can find right now is to win. The more we win, the more we get things going in the right direction, the better this story turns out.
“We all have that in the back of our heads, and we realize the importance of it. And in order for that to happen, this is a very important stretch where we can turn things around, and hopefully start going in the right direction.”
The Wizards are two games into a six-game homestand, and they have a key component back in the lineup. Mike Miller(notes), sidelined for all but two games since Nov. 21 because of a right calf injury, returned Monday and was a welcome spark plug with 13 points and 4s all over his stat line: 4 for 4 from the field, 4 for 4 from the line, four rebounds, four assists and four turnovers in 24 minutes.
Randy Foye(notes) added 19 points and Caron Butler(notes) had 18 for the Wizards, who made 25 of 28 free throws and shot 52 percent from the field. Those are the kind of numbers Washington needs without Arenas, who was averaging 22.6 points and 7.2 assists.
“I think it has to do with the fact that we understand what we got now,” Miller said. “We don’t know if he’ll be back or when he’ll be back. We understand this is what we got in the locker room, we’ve got to make the most of it, and we’re playing better right now.”
Jamison was 3 for 10 from the field at halftime, but he shot 7 of 11 in the second half in a game that was close throughout. Neither team led by more than 10, and there were six ties in the fourth quarter alone, but Portland didn’t make a field goal in the last four minutes, its final bucket coming on Martell Webster’s(notes) 3-pointer that put the Trail Blazers ahead 88-85.
Andre Miller(notes) scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half before fouling out with 19 seconds to play, LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) also scored 22 points and had a season-high 15 rebounds, and Webster added 18 points for the Trail Blazers, who had a two-game winning streak snapped as they opened a four-game road trip with a game that started at 10 a.m. West Coast time.
“It was tough to get going, but once we started playing, it started getting easier,” Aldridge said. “We had to get up at 9—6 o’clock in Portland.”
Portland played again without leading scorer Brandon Roy(notes), who sat out his second straight game with a sore right hamstring. Roy indicated before the game that he would play, but he wasn’t able to convince coach Nate McMillan or trainer Jay Jensen.
“Jay and I didn’t like what we were hearing, so we held him,” McMillan said. “I don’t have any regrets about that.”
The Wizards led 90-88 late when both teams went scoreless for nearly 1 1/2 minutes. Butler finally hit a 20-foot jumper with 1:09 to play to put the Wizards ahead by four. Jerryd Bayless(notes) answered with two free throws, but Butler’s tip-in restored the four-point lead with 43 seconds left.
Bayless got to the line again and made one of two—ending a 13-for-13 run from the line for the Trail Blazers—and Foye’s two free throws at the other end put Washington ahead by five with 19 seconds remaining, enough of a cushion to pull out the win.
NOTES: Mike Miller pledged to donate $1,000 to the Haiti relief effort for every 3-pointer the Wizards made, but the team hit just two of eight attempts. “I was hoping for a lot more—we didn’t make any 3s,” Miller said. “Maybe I’ll do it again here at the end of the week.” … The game drew a season-low 12,209 to the Verizon Center. … Portland F Nicolas Batum(notes), yet to play this season because of shoulder surgery, said he’s aiming to return Jan. 25 against New Orleans. … Some players wore specially designed shoes for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The shoes had green, black and red trim. … To get his team energized for an early game, Wizards coach Flip Saunders arranged breakfast for the players. “Hopefully, that’ll put a little fuel in their tummies,” he said. Not all of them got the memo—Butler arrived in the locker room carrying a McDonald’s bag and cup.