7:00 PM ET, December 1, 2007
Washington D.C., DC
Wizards improve to 5-4 in Arenas' absence
WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's no secret that the other two parts of the Washington Wizards' Big Three are going to have to do more while Gilbert Arenas is away. Saturday night's game provided a blueprint for how it's supposed to work. Caron Butler scored 29 points, Antawn Jamison had 28, and the rest of the lineup did just enough in the Wizards' 101-97 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Butler went 10-for-18 from the field and added seven assists, and Jamison was 11-for-18 and had 14 rebounds, even though they were the obvious points of focus of the Raptors' defense.
"It's incredible, man," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "Defenses are loading up on them. They're denying them. They've been making it hard for them to catch. They've been making it hard for them to make their moves. But they're getting it done."
Of course, there has to a third key contributor, even if it's someone different every game. This time it was Roger Mason, who scored a season-high 15 points one night after failing to get off the bench in a loss to Philadelphia.
"It's part of the NBA," Mason said. "You've got to stay ready, keep your body in shape. The coach decided to give me a shot early and I was able to hit some shots."
The Wizards shot 56 percent and broke a two-game losing streak. They are 5-4 without Arenas, who is out several months with a knee injury. After treading water through various and hectic road trips for much of November, they get to stay home for much of December.
"Phew," Jamison said with relief when reminded of the upcoming schedule. "This is a great opportunity for us."
Toronto was also missing its best player. The Raptors beat Cleveland on Friday without Chris Bosh, who is day-to-day with a strained right groin, but they could have used some of his 19 points per game against the Wizards. Jason Kapono finished with a season-high 23 points, and rookie Jamario Moon set season highs with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Anthony Parker added 18 points for the Raptors, who had won three straight.
"It's hard, obviously, because all of our offense runs through Chris and he provides a type of game that we don't have," Kapono said. "On the block, he can face guys up. And at the free throw line -- he gets to the line a lot. That's something we need to balance out during those tough stretches when we can't score."
Both teams were playing the second night of back-to-back games, and neither was able to put on any sort of run that threatened to take control of the game. A modest 8-2 spurt gave the Wizards a 96-87 lead with 2:51 to play, but Washington had to sweat out the final possessions after Kapono's 3-pointer cut the lead to four in the final minute.
"We didn't make shots, and we're missing one of our better players," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. "A lot of our offense goes through relying on Chris to draw double-teams, but we missed some shots that we can make and we made some mistakes. We gave ourselves an opportunity, but every time we got right there, we just couldn't get over the hump."
Butler scored the Wizards' first nine points with three 3-pointers. He already has more 3s this season (23) than he had all of last season (18). ... The Wizards retired Earl Monroe's jersey at halftime. "The Pearl" played with the Baltimore Bullets from 1967-71, before the franchise moved to Washington. ... Before tipoff, the team presented a video tribute to slain Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor. There was also a moment of silence for Taylor, who died Tuesday after being shot at his home in Florida. ... The Wizards also commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Verizon Center, which opened Dec. 2, 1997, with a 95-78 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics and President Bill Clinton in attendance.
Washington's still around .500, so if they can keep this up, they'll be in position for the playoffs by the time Arenas comes back.