Arenas Lifts Wizards Past Battered Bobcats
Washington 107, Charlotte 97
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (Ticker) -- The shorthanded Charlotte Bobcats had plenty of heart and determination. The Washington Wizards had Gilbert Arenas.
Arenas scored 34 points as the Wizards held on for a 107-97 victory over the injury-riddled Bobcats, who suffered their franchise-record 11th straight loss.
"We had to come out and get back on track," Arenas said. "We knew they were going to be tough, no matter who they had. We had to come out and play it all the way to the end."
Charlotte again was without the injured Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace and Kareem Rush. They were joined on the sidelines by starting point guard Brevin Knight, who is fifth in the league in assists and second in steals.
Knight sat out after suffering a mild concussion in Friday's home loss to Miami. The Bobcats also were without key reserves Keith Bogans and rookie Sean May.
Five of the nine players used by coach Bernie Bickerstaff had two years or less of experience. Nevertheless, the Bobcats trailed just 95-94 with less than three minutes to play.
"As shorthanded as we are right now, I don't know if I can ask any more of them in this situation," Bickerstaff said.
"We fought and fought and fought," forward-center Melvin Ely said. "The only thing we can do is play the same way and hope that things go our way in the end."
They didn't, because Arenas took over. On consecutive possessions, he made a runner in the lane, then fouled out Brezec and sank two free throws for a 99-94 advantage with 2:09 to play.
"They're a tough, hard-nosed team and they are going to compete," Arenas said. "Their starters and their bench are both good, and they all can hit shots. ... They're going to win some games if they continue to play like they did tonight."
Jumaine Jones answered a layup by Antonio Daniels with a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 101-97 with 56 seconds to go. Arenas responded with two free throws that sealed it with 34 seconds left.
Etan Thomas scored 12 points and fellow reserve Daniels added 11 for the Wizards, who held a 47-35 advantage in rebounds and beat the Bobcats for the fifth time in six all-time meetings.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "They are a very competitive team and always have been. ... They are so depleted with injuries and my heart goes out to Bernie. He's a class act and a guy who I really respect. His team plays hard. They're disciplined, they execute well, and we had a tough time with them."
Primoz Brezec matched his career-high 27 points and 12 rebounds and rookie Felton had 18 and a season-high 13 assists for the Bobcats, who have not won since a double-overtime victory over Houston on January 10. They lost 10 in a row twice in their inaugural 2004-05 season.
In addition to Knight's absence, the Bobcats had a handful of injury scares in the first half. In the opening period, Ely went down and had to leave after banging his knee. In the second quarter, Felton took a shot to the groin.
"Arenas kneed me twice in my quad, and Melvin Ely and Raymond Felton got hurt, too, but we kept fighting," Brezec said.
Both players returned for the Bobcats, who trailed by 10 points early in the fourth quarter but closed to 93-92 with 3:56 left on a corner jumper by Brezec, who scored 10 points in the final period.
Charlotte had a chance to take the lead, but Felton missed a contested fast-break layup. Washington's Brendan Haywood dunked at the other end before Brezec made another corner jumper.
"I've said all year - coach is going to make sure the effort is there," Ely said. "He's not going to put guys on the floor that aren't going to play hard. Regardless of the way our situation is, if we had seven, he'd make sure those seven played hard or you don't play. We're going into the game with that mind-set."