WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (Ticker) --
The Washington Wizards built a
double-digit lead with steals and fast-break baskets. Gilbert Arenas
gave them the win in similar fashion.
Arenas made a steal and breakaway dunk with 20 seconds to play,
lifting the Wizards to their fifth straight win, a 104-100
victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
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"It was a play that if I made it, I looked good, if I missed it,
they would have a wide open shot," Arenas said. "I went on
instinct, and it worked out for us."
Arenas and Larry Hughes
scored 26 points apiece for Washington
(20-13), which is seven games over .500 for the first time since
January 30, 1985. The Wizards completed a perfect five-game homestand and have won
five in a row.
"We had five teams come in here, with five different styles,"
Hughes said. "We adjusted and found a way to get it done."
A tough driving layup by Arenas over Theo Ratliff
Washington a 99-98 lead with 24 seconds remaining and forced
Portland to call its final timeout. On the ensuing inbounds
play, Richie Frahm
threw a lazy pass that Arenas picked off
before going in for a dunk.
missed a 3-pointer and Hughes made 3-of-4 free
throws to seal the win.
"We made a couple of mental mistakes at the end that cost us,"
Portland coach Maurice Cheeks
said. "You have to give them
credit. They made the shots at the end that enabled them to win
In November, Arenas saw Philadelphia's Allen Iverson
front of him, steal an inbounds pass and streak in for the
game-winning layup at the overtime buzzer. This time, he was
handing out the heartbreak.
"It always comes back around," he said. "We got beat on a play
like that and it was a game-winner. We still had to make some
free throws to get the win, but we felt good about it."
Arenas made 11-of-16 shots, including four 3-pointers, and had
five assists and two steals with zero turnovers. Hughes made
10-of-20 shots and had nine assists and six steals. The
backcourt duo fueled a big third quarter that included 12
fast-break points, many coming off steals.
"Our defense is a big part of our offense," Hughes said. "Our
guards can rebound and make steals and start the break from
there. That's a key for us."
Washington held an 85-73 lead with 8:04 left before Portland put
together a 15-3 run that featured 3-pointers by Nick Van Exel
Stoudamire and Frahm. Stoudamire's lay-up gave the Trail
Blazers a 90-89 edge and was the first of six lead changes in
the final period.
"For some reason the last couple of minutes is when we dig
down," Arenas said. "There's no panic. It's just that if we
don't stop them in the first 47 minutes, we have to do it for
the last one."
"We don't worry," Hughes said. "We always think that we can get
a stop and make a play."
A scoop shot by Antawn Jamison
gave the Wizards a 95-90 lead
with 1:59 to go before Van Exel drilled consecutive 3-pointers
to give the Blazers a 96-95 lead with 1:04 left. Hughes and
Ratliff traded baskets to set up Arenas' heroics.
Stoudamire had 23 points and seven assists and Van Exel scored
19 points for Portland, which fell to 1-2 on its six-game road
trip. The Blazers played the second half without leading scorer
, who suffered a leg strain.