Arenas Leads Surging Wizards Over Bulls
Washington 113, Chicago 104
WASHINGTON, March 19 (Ticker) -- Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards continue to ascend in the Eastern Conference standings.
Arenas scored 29 points and dished out seven assists to lift the Wizards to a 113-104 triumph over the Chicago Bulls.
"Every win counts," Arenas said. "This game was as important as the next game and the next game - all the way for the rest of the season. Every game and every win is very important to us right now."
The NBA's fourth-leading scorer, Arenas received strong support from his teammates. Caron Butler scored 25 points, Antawn Jamison added 23 and seven rebounds and Antonio Daniels chipped in 21 off the bench for the Wizards, who won for the first time in three meetings this season with the Bulls.
"We played well for a full 48 minutes today," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "We did a lot of good things out there, particularly with our defense."
Washington built a 60-40 lead at the break but was forced to stave off a furious second-half charge from Chicago (29-38), which has lost three straight and five of seven.
"Even though we were up 20 at halftime, we knew the Bulls would make a run at us," Jordan said. "That is the type of team they are. They are a disciplined, well-coached team. Our game plan was to get up in the wings and stay with the dribble penetration, and we did a good job with that."
Chris Duhon drilled a jumper to draw the Bulls within 93-86 with 8:04 left. But Jamison sank a 3-pointer from the right corner on the ensuing possession and knocked down a short runner with 7:20 remaining to push the cushion to 98-86.
"Even when we got it close, Jamison got away from us," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "He's been a key guy whenever we've played against them. If we would've been able to do a good job on him and make him shoot a poor percentage, we've had some success. Arenas is normally going to have a pretty good game; it's hard to stop him. But Jamison got away from us."
Daniels, who celebrated his 31st birthday, made 7-of-9 shots.
"AD made several big shots for us today," Jordan said. "It is the time of year for our veterans and guys who have been to the playoffs to step up for us. Antonio has done that. He is focused and he knows that each shot means a lot more at this point of the season."
"It takes a while to find your niche," said Daniels, who struggled earlier this season, his first with the Wizards. "You're pressing. You're trying to live up to this, trying to live up to that. And when you just kind of calm down and be yourself - it took me a while just to be myself (with a) new coaching staff, new teammates, new organization, new system - once you find a way to blend in without trying to do too much, everything falls into place."
Ben Gordon was slowed by first-half foul trouble but scored 20 points for Chicago, which trails eighth-place Philadelphia (31-35) by 2 1/2 games.
Skiles said the Bulls would have gotten buried without the second-year guard.
"It's not unlike the way he's always played, really," Skiles said. "Ben was a high turnover player last year and he knows he needs to work on that. He's still a young player playing the guard position, and there's a lot to learn out there. It's just that the incredible fourth quarters last year took the focus off a lot of the other things and now it's a little bit different.
"But without Ben making some shots during periods of the game tonight, we wouldn't have even had a chance."
Luol Deng and reserve Andres Nocioni added 18 points apiece for Chicago, committed 19 turnovers.
Skiles had harsh words in the third quarter for center Tyson Chandler, who drew a technical foul from the bench after picking up his fifth foul.
"From my seat, I can't allow us to be blaming other factors for the way that we play," Skiles said. "There's a very simple thing to do under those situations, and that's play better. We've done that a little bit too much this year: blame the refs, blame other situations, and that's not a belief system that I can endorse ever."
Chandler had a different translation of the conversation.
"He told me, 'Happy belated St. Patrick's Day,'" Chandler said.