B>Washington 116, Memphis 101

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26 (AP) -- Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan wonders how long his team can keep up this torrid pace.

Washington had no problem Tuesday night, beating the Memphis Grizzlies 116-101. Gilbert Arenas scored 31 points, all in the first three quarters.

``I was talking to our trainer: 'How long can a seven-man rotation last in the NBA?' Jordan said. ``We're playing a lot of minutes and this is an important week for us, playing two back-to-backs.

``Hopefully we can keep the energy through the end of the month.''

The Wizards have won 11 of 14 and moved three games above .500. They returned home without missing a beat from a four-game trip in which they averaged 131 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver, Sacramento and Phoenix.

The Wizards scored 45 points in the first quarter, a Verizon Center record for any period. It was also a season high, eclipsing the 40 points recorded against the Miami Heat on Dec. 15.

The Wizards set another Verizon Center mark with 77 points in the first half, eclipsing the 71 they tallied Feb. 26 of last season against the New York Knicks. Arenas and Antawn Jamison both were perfect on three shots from behind the arc and the Wizards shot 59 percent in the half.

Jamison finished with 26 points and nine rebounds. Caron Butler added 19 points, six assists and five rebounds. Brendan Haywood just missed his third consecutive double-double with 15 points and nine boards.

Arenas left the building before the locker room was opened to the media. He bolted to Dulles International Airport for a late-night flight to Charlotte, where the Wizards play on Wednesday. Jamison, Haywood and Butler said they've been energized by Arenas' recent play.

``The guy only took 13 shots, of course he gets to the foul line, but he still had 31, that's impressive,'' Jamison said. ``Unbelievable what he did the last couple of games and as of late. Everything just seems to come easy. I'm just sitting there watching him and he's not forcing things up. Just going within the flow and taking his time.''

Alexander Johnson led Memphis with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

Chucky Atkins scored seven points during a 15-0 run that pulled the Grizzlies within 106-94 in the fourth quarter, but they never seriously threatened after the first period.

In the teams' last meeting, Arenas scored a season-low three points in the Grizzlies' 95-80 victory Nov. 24 at Memphis. It was one of only two times Arenas has scored less than 10 points in a game this season - the same number of times he has scored 50 or more.

``He was determined tonight,'' Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello said. ``I'm sure he didn't forget and I am sure Eddie didn't allow them to forget that he struggled the last time against us. He came out from the beginning with a lot of confidence making shots and he's been on a pretty good roll lately.''

Through three quarters, Arenas shot 9-of-12 from the field and was perfect on 10 free throws. He re-entered the game with the Wizards leading by 14 with 4:35 remaining and recorded his seventh assist.

``He said, 'You want me to go back in?''' Jordan said. ``I didn't like where it was going and we just couldn't afford to have any more turnovers or any disjointed offensive sets. We need a basket and I think Gil made a drive and got it to Antawn and got us a shot.''

Arenas followed a 3-pointer with back-to-back three-point plays that gave the Wizards a 33-16 lead with 3:05 remaining in the first quarter. He finished the period with 17 points on 5-for-6 shooting with four assists. He also drew three fouls on Atkins, a former Wizards guard.

``Gilbert is a guy who has been extremely aggressive and he has the right to be,'' Atkins said. ``This guy is one of the toughest guys in the league to guard. He has been on fire of late, 60, 30, 54. Tonight he continued his streak. He comes out and plays like that - they are tough to beat anyway.''

Jordan realizes that Arenas and the Wizards quickly are becoming targets.

``We've had a lot of exposure in the last week,'' Jordan said. ``Now we're the Lakers, we're the Suns. People are going to come gunning for us. We've got to be able to hold home court and play with a lot of energy and discipline at the same time. Now we have the identity that we want, and the personality and demeanor that we want going into games - we're not getting distracted and we're focused. We understand that's how we have to play.''

Johnson, a rookie from Florida State, scored 11 of the Grizzlies' first 13 points.

Notes: The Wizards are 12-1 when Arenas scores 30 or more points. ... The Grizzlies have allowed 100 or more points in each of their past five games. They previously had not allowed 100 or more points in three consecutive games since April of 2005.


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