Arenas Heats Up as Wizards Top Pacers
Posted Nov 9 2006 3:35AM
Washington 117, Indiana 91
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (AP) -- Gilbert Arenas was scoring pretty much at will, helping the Washington Wizards take a 15-point halftime lead against the Indiana Pacers.
So, naturally, coach Eddie Jordan lit into the Wizards in the locker room, telling his players he didn't like what he was seeing.
They responded by picking up the intensity on defense while never losing a beat on offense, and Arenas finished with 40 points Wednesday night to lead Washington to a 117-91 victory over Indiana, which played without injured All-Star Jermaine O'Neal.
``Coach said, 'We keep playing like this, it's going to go down to the wire. They're going to come back, and we're going to tank at home. So you have to come out and you have to shut that lane down and stop them from getting easy buckets,''' Arenas recounted.
With Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, the Wizards don't need to worry about scoring. But Jordan's been talking for some time about the need to improve at the defensive end. After allowing Indiana to make 50 percent of its shots in the first half, Washington held the Pacers to 27 percent the rest of the way.
An early 12-0 spurt in the third quarter put Washington ahead 76-50.
``When you have a team on the ropes,'' Jamison said, ``you have to find a way to put them down.''
The Wizards' transition offense was in gear all night thanks to turnovers. Washington entered the game leading the NBA in forcing turnovers and Indiana gave up the ball 25 times, leading to 35 points.
Arenas was 14-of-20 from the field and 8-of-9 on free throws for the 21st 40-point game of his NBA career - and second in a row at home. He was taken out shortly after his 3-pointer put Washington ahead 105-72 about a minute into the fourth quarter.
``Right now, he has a feel for it, and the offense that they run is great for him,'' Pacers guard Darrell Armstrong said. ``He picks his spots. You can't turn your head.''
Wearing a bandage near his right eye after getting cut by an opponent's elbow in Washington's loss at Orlando on Monday, Arenas was impressive throughout, whether he was driving to the basket or making fadeaway 3s.
He scored 24 points by halftime, including a four-point play when he was fouled by Jamaal Tinsley.
Arenas is averaging 42 points this season in Washington, where the Wizards are 2-0. On the road, though, Arenas is averaging 15.5 points and his team is 0-2.
The Pacers fell to 3-2, with their leading scorer, O'Neal, sidelined by the left ankle he hurt Tuesday against Philadelphia. At one point, as Washington's lead grew to 36 points, O'Neal covered his eyes with a hand.
``Just on one leg would have been better to have him out there with our team, just to have his presence,'' Armstrong said.
The good news for Indiana: O'Neal said he expects to play Friday against Orlando.
``Listen, there aren't many positives in a game like this, but we've got to be a no-excuses team, and we've got to compete on a high level, no matter if we're on a back-to-back or if we got two or three days' rest,'' Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. ``They thumped us. They competed harder and better. We got what we deserved.''
Jamison had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, including a nice backdoor pass to Arenas for a dunk in the third quarter. Butler added 12 points and five assists, and DeShawn Stevenson doubled his previous season high with 10 points.
Starters accounted for 82 of Washington's first 86 points; the other four in that stretch came from backup center Brendan Haywood.
Notes: Jordan said there was ``no lingering effect, none at all'' in the locker room from last week's fight between Thomas and Haywood. ... Extra security was near the Pacers' bench because of heckling from the stands. ``It's easy to talk when your team's up. People feel like they need to say stuff and communicate and try to make the situation worse, but hey, that's part of sports,'' O'Neal said. ``You deal with it.''
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