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Arenas scores 30 points as Wizards knock off Pacers

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

By HOWARD FENDRICH

AP Sports Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards finally gave their home fans something to cheer about.

Showing more spring in his step and more accuracy with his shot, Arenas scored 20 of his 30 points in the first half and finished with 11 assists and six rebounds, leading Washington to a 103-90 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.

Caron Butler scored 25 points, and Brendan Haywood had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Wizards, while reserve Marquis Daniels led the Pacers with 19 points. The teams are heading in opposite directions, with the Wizards going 2-0 after an 0-5 start, and the Pacers going 0-5 after a 3-0 start.

Arenas has been struggling since he returned from left knee surgery, and he entered the game making only 35.6 percent of his field-goal attempts. But he hit at a 50-percent clip Wednesday, going 9-for-18, on a mix of darts to the basket and jumpers.

The All-Star guard has been limiting his work on the team's off-days, giving the knee some extra rest between games, and that might be beginning to pay dividends.

The Wizards ended a 10-game home losing streak that dated to last season and included two defeats while getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs. The eight regular-season home losses in a row tied a franchise record set in 1994-95.

Washington was booed during its previous home game, a 26-point loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday that dropped the Wizards to 0-5 for the first time since 1966 -- back when they were known as the Baltimore Bullets.

The next day, though, the Wizards won at Atlanta for their first victory of the season, with all five starters scoring in double figures. And now Washington has its first winning streak.

Indiana beat Washington in overtime in both teams' season opener Oct. 31, but this one wasn't close even at the outset.

The Pacers began the game 3-for-14 on field-goal attempts, and the Wizards led 28-15 after the first quarter, drawing applause from a crowd of 12,477 -- with some fans even rising out of their seats. Butler nearly matched the off-the-mark Pacers all by himself in that period, scoring 14 points.

But it was Arenas' performance that stood out as Washington took a 56-41 halftime lead.

In the last 2 minutes of the half alone, Arenas made a 3-pointer, blocked Jeff Granger's 3-point attempt at the other end, made another 3, then drove hard to the basket and drew a foul with 0.9 seconds left in the half.

There was more of the same in the second half, with Arenas taking turns scoring himself and creating for others. His basket with about 5 minutes left in the third quarter gave Washington a 75-55 lead, its biggest to that point, and Indiana never really challenged again.

The Pacers wound up shooting 39 percent, a night after shooting 35 percent and scoring 86 in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Notes:

The Pacers were without starting forward Troy Murphy, who had a sore left Achilles' after getting kicked there against Boston. Jeff Foster started in his place. ... Wizards coach Eddie Jordan finally earned his 100th career coaching victory at Verizon Center. ... Jordan experimented with some lineup changes, including trying a big alignment with Haywood, Darius Songaila and Andray Blatche all together. Jordan also tried what essentially was a four-forward lineup. ... The 2008 NBA All-Star ballot came out Wednesday. Three Wizards are on there -- Arenas, Butler and Antawn Jamison -- and four Pacers are -- Jamaal Tinsley, Mike Dunleavy, Jermaine O'Neal and Granger.



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