Gilbert Arenas said before the start of this four-game road trip that he hoped going back to his hometown of Los Angeles would spark the rebirth of Agent Zero. Ten missed shots, six turnovers, and six fouls later, Gilbert looked further away than ever. Wednesday's performance provided some more hope, but only led to more disappointment when Tyreke Evans stole away Gilbert's chances to seal a win.
Last night? That was more like it. Sure, everyone will throw out the disclaimer about playing against the Warriors' porous defense, but 45 points is 45 points. Only four other players have scored 45 or more points this season, and no one else has done it while chipping in more than 5 assists (Gilbert had 13). Questions about whether or not Gilbert can fully integrate his game into Flip's offense will continue to linger until he can consistently put together some solid performances, but last night he put away any doubts about whether or not he still has the physical tools.
It's not a question of whether or not Gilbert Arenas is back after he had 45 points and 13 assists, his highest scoring game since Jan. 15, 2007 (thanks, ESPN). He has to be back. This is his team. He is the center of what it does and how it plays. Everything starts with Arenas, and the Wizards have spent the better part of two years waiting for him simply to finally take his place, one that they paid - yes, i'm talking about it - $111 million to reserve.
Arenas and Butler have both struggled to find their grooves this season, which has played a major role in the Wizards losing 16 of their first 23 games. But with the Wizards in desperate need of a victory, the two most maligned players in Washington helped snap a six-game losing streak by coming through with the type of performances that people have come to expect of them -- although few could've predicted that Arenas was going to score 45 points and hand out 13 assists, even against a very bad, or rather non-existent, Golden State defense. "The rhythm is coming back and I'm feeling good right now," Arenas said after topping 40 points for first time since March 21, 2007, when he scored 42 in a win against Seattle. "Feeling more confident handling the ball, getting into the lane. A lot more confident than I did a couple of weeks ago."
"I’m just trying to get back in attack mode," Arenas continued. "I’ve been the coy fish for a couple of games. I’m just trying to get back in attack mode. I’m finishing off. I finished the game how I left Sacramento. I finally hit plays tonight. down there in the end, I made a shot and a pass to CB. The rhythm is coming back and I’m feeling good right now." So the pressures of D.C. are still weighing on Gil's mind, huh? You don't like to hear your franchise player dreading playing in front of the home crowd, but for now this is how he feels. "I don’t know. When you’re at home, sometimes you got pressure. You got pressure to win. It’s the pressure sometimes. when you get West, you’re away everybody, away from your family, away from your friends, away from most of the media. People off the street saying, ‘Why y’all losing? Get it together’ You get away from that and you go on a trip and it’s you and your team."
Arenas, who missed most of the past two years with knee injuries, had his 29th career game of 40 or more points. "When we got the ball in Gilbert’s hands he made plays," Wizards’ coach Flip Saunders said. "When you have a guy directly involved with 71 of your points, he’s made a huge impact."
Arenas, who has been putting up some big numbers despite the multiple losses, had another big night in the box score -- 45 points, his most since January 2007, and 13 assists -- but more importantly, Agent Zero was completely unguardable down the stretch. It was the vintage, clutch Gilbert we fondly remember; late in the fourth, Arenas was either making shots, almost effortlessly finding his way to the bucket, or creating open shots for his teammates.
Wizards head coach Flip Saunders believes Arenas is only at 75 percent in his quest to fully return from his knee problems. "He is getting a little but more aggressive", Saunders added. If you notice he has a better sweat going. He doesn’t look cold out there. He looks loose and into it."
Antawn Jamison's string of three consecutive games with at least 30 points per game came to an end after he suffered a stinger on the left side of his neck in the second period. During a break in action, Arenas asked Jamison where he was hurting then pressed his fingers in the area where Jamison told him. Jamison angrily pushed back Arenas and playfully slapped him across the cheek. "I told him, 'Put some oil on it,' because he got that old neck right now," Arenas said he told Jamison. "But he said, 'Look at your knee.' The jokes stopped right there." Not quite. Jamison later airballed a free throw and Arenas joked with him some more. "He was Gilbert," said Jamison, who also started his career in Golden State.
The Wizards were able to snap their six-game losing streak thanks to big nights from their starters. Antawn Jamison was out for most of the game with a shoulder injury but Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler each pitched in with double-doubles. Butler stepped up by scoring a season-high 28 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and 5 steals in what was his best game of the season. Brendan Haywood had 11 points and nine rebounds in the first half. He finished with 15 points and 12 boards, making seven of nine shots from the field. Haywood was able to take advantage of a Warriors team missing most of their frontcourt. Out due to injury were Andris Biedrins, Mikki Moore, Ronny Turiaf, and Brandon Wright.
Last night's victory, and the fact that four Wizards obtained double-doubles in the win, are definitely things Washington and its fans can enjoy. However, the 8-16 Wizards still have a long road to travel, and allowed Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry to score career-highs of 30 and 27 respectively despite the victory. Washington will not have the luxury of allowing career-highs against the Phoenix Suns tomorrow, as the Suns are a much deeper team and free from some of the injuries which have plagued the Warriors.
Best of Twitterville
Twitter / Jack Kogod
Anthony Randlolph has a touch of Blatchitis. He needs to get that looked at.
Twitter / George V. Panagakos
Quick math here: if Gil is 75%, his line right now would be 57 points and 17 assists if 100%, right?
Twitter / Mike Prada
A good point. RT @Truth_About_It: Are shoulder issues ultimately to blame for Jamison's 47-77 from the free-throw line on the year?
Twitter / Truth_About_It
Wow, that last shot by Gilbert ... make that the last two shots ... are about nothing but determination.
Twitter / Mike Jones
I don't get how Arenas can stroke one-handed 3-pointers in practice but can't make free throws in games.
Twitter / Jamie Mottram
45, 13 and a W; Gil needed that. We all did.
Twitter / wizznutzz
glory years redux!!! back to 42-40 here we come!!!!!!!! RT @Unsilent: Agent Zero ft. Vintage Tough Juice + Unbreakable 'Tawn
Twitter / Agent Dagger
did we just....win?