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Arenas enjoys spotlight

January 17, 2007 12:50 am

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By ADAM HIMMELSBACH
By ADAM HIMMELSBACH

WASHINGTON--Gilbert Arenas sat at his locker Monday afternoon, about 20 minutes removed from his latest dominant performance.

He talked about his buzzer-beating 3-pointer that had sent the Wizards to a 114-111 victory against the Utah Jazz. He talked about the 51 points he had scored. He talked about being considered for the MVP award.

And he was asked--as Wizards coach Eddie Jordan had been earlier--why in the world the Jazz had not double-teamed him.

"Truthfully, it's going to be hard, because you have Caron [Butler] on one wing and Antawn [Jamison] on another wing," Arenas said, "so it's going to be hard to double me in any manner."

But it's becoming increasingly apparent that it might be harder to single-cover Arenas in last-second situations.

On Jan. 3, the Milwaukee Bucks sent Charlie Bell to defend Arenas in the closing seconds of a tie game. Arenas milked the clock before nailing a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.

On Monday, Utah's Deron Williams had the dubious honor of guarding Arenas. Once again, Arenas let enough time drip away to make the crowd a bit uncomfortable, and then pulled up a foot behind the line for the winning 3-pointer.

On that play, Jamison and Jarvis Hayes had spotted up on the wings while Butler and Antonio Daniels occupied the corners. It turned out they were not needed.

"Gil has made some reads in the past where if he's double-teamed, he makes the right play," Jordan said. "But right now, no one's double-teaming him, so it's been one-on-one. He's going to miss one somewhere down the line, but right now, it's good for us."

Jordan is all too familiar with the other side of the predicament, as the coach who has to decide whether or not to double-team the opponent's star player. In the first round of last season's Eastern Conference playoffs, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James converted two game-winning baskets against the Wizards.

In Game 6, with the Wizards holding a two-point overtime lead, Washington sent a double-team at James. James fired a pass to Damon Jones, who drained the series-clinching 3-pointer from the left corner.

"It just depends on your philosophy," Jordan said, "and you have to live with your decision."

Certainly, though, Jordan can live with his decision to get the ball in Arenas' hands in late-game situations.

With his 51-point performance Monday afternoon, Arenas, 25, became the first player in franchise history to top the 50-point mark three times.

Earl Monroe, Phil Chenier, Bernard King (twice), Michael Jordan, Moses Malone and Tracy Murray are the others who accomplished the feat.

All three of Arenas' 50-point games have come this season, which is less than halfway finished.

Arenas scored 60 points Dec. 17 against the Los Angeles Lakers and 54 on Dec. 22 against the Phoenix Suns. Both of those games went to overtime.

Only Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan have scored at least 50 points three times over a 30-day span before the age of 26.

The Wizards play host to the New York Knicks tonight, and Arenas will try to become the first player in franchise history to score 50 points in back-to-back games. Don't count him out, and don't count on him being stopped by one player.

"We don't think Gilbert is ever going to miss," Hayes said. "If he's at the top of the key, I don't think anyone can guard him one-on-one."

To reach ADAM HIMMELSBACH: 540/374-5442
Email: ahimmelsbach@freelancestar.com





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