Boykins' last-second free throws burn Jennings, Bucks
One of the options a team with three All-Stars has is that there are times when they can be used as decoys.
And Wednesday night at Verizon Center, with a game hanging in the balance against the Milwaukee Bucks, Wizards coach Flip Saunders did just that.
Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with 22 points and nine assists. With 10.5 seconds remaining and the game tied at 102, and with Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison all on the floor, Saunders put the ball and the outcome in the hands of diminutive Early Boykins and the league's tiniest player delivered.
Out of a timeout, Boykins, in a pick-and-roll scenario with center Brendan Haywood, kept the ball while Haywood rolled, pump faked and drew a foul on budding star Brandon Jennings. Boykins, a .941 free-throw shooter, made both free throws with :1 second left to give the Wizards the 104-102 win.
The Bucks did manage one last shot following a timeout, a 26-footer along the baseline from Luke Ridnour, but the shot, taken on the run, was short as time expired.
"It's actually easier to play when the game is on the line," Boykins said of the end-game scenario. "I was just happy to get a win on back-to-back situations."
He wasn't the only one. Coupled with Tuesday's win in Toronto, the Wizards notched their first win in a back-to-back situation since April 5, 2008.
With the win, Washington improved its record to 7-10, winning for the fourth time in the last five games. The loss dropped Milwaukee's record to 9-8. After beginning the season 7-3 the Bucks have now dropped five of their last six games.
Washington placed six players in double figures, led by Arenas' game-high 22. Arenas added a game-high nine assists. Nick Young, starting for the injured Mike Miller (strained right calf), finished with 20 points, and Haywood pulled down 14 rebounds.
The Bucks, who have been getting exceptional play out of their bench lately, received 20 apiece from reserves Ridnour and Hakim Warrick. Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles was ejected late in the first quarter when he was issued a double technical on a play in which he thought Haywood fouled Warrick. No foul was called.
"That came real quick," Jennings said. "I was surprised when I looked up and saw him heading off."
The Wizards shot the ball better from the field, connecting on 54 percent of their shots compared with Milwaukee's 44 percent. However, the Wizards held a huge free-throw advantage, making 25 of 34 compared to Milwaukee's 9-for-12.
Still, the outcome was very much in doubt heading into the fourth quarter with the Bucks, trying to extend their winning streak over Washington to five games, leading 80-79.
The fourth quarter turned into a battle of the benches with Boykins and Andray Blatche doing the heavy lifting for the Wizards and Ridnour and Warrick carrying the load for the Bucks. Boykins scored 11 of his 13 points in the fourth and Blatche scored six of his 10 in the final quarter. Meanwhile, Ridnour and Warrick scored seven and six, respectively, for the Bucks.
Milwaukee took the largest lead of the fourth quarter early in the period, 86-82, on Charlie Bell's 20-footer with just under nine minutes to play.
After Boykins -- serenaded at this juncture by chants of "MVP" from the crowd of 12,272 -- sank a pair of free throws with 17.4 seconds remaining to give the Wizards a 102-99 lead, Jennings responded with a 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Haywood to pull the teams even at 102.
This set the stage for Boykins' heroics.
"He was making things happen," admitted Jennings, who said he thought the Wizards would turn to Arenas in that situation. "Earl was making me tired. I was having to chase him around like 10 different screens. He's so hard to guard because he's so little, and once he gets around that screen he puts so much pressure on the big man that it's just hard to stop him."