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Atlanta's Tyronn Lue (right) fouls Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas during the second quarter last night. Arenas later was upset about the calls he didn't get.
Washington's Caron Butler (3) swings briefly from the rim
WASHINGTON--It is just November, and this basketball season will stretch well into spring.
But late in the Wizards' game against the visiting Atlanta Hawks last night, there was a palpable sense of urgency. Washington entered the night mired in a four-game losing streak.
It seemed that the Hawks, perennial doormats of the Eastern Conference, would provide the needed elixir. Instead, they trailed by a point in the final minute and had two opportunities to win.
But the Wizards, who are not known for lockdown defense, got frisky on those two possessions. They forced a cold shooter to take a long 3-pointer on the first, and they kept a hot shooter away from the rim on the second. When Joe Johnson (33 points) lofted a 17-foot fadeaway that clanged off the back of the rim, the Wizards escaped with a 96-95 victory.
"Frankly," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan began, "I'm still trying to catch my breath over those last two possessions."
The game came down to the final moments mainly because of the struggles of the Wizards' two stars, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas, who combined to make 13 of 36 field goal attempts.
Arenas, who also committed nine turnovers, has made just 34 of 102 shots over his last four games. After yesterday's win, the all-star point guard voiced his frustrations with the officiating.
"At the end of the day, I don't think they're calling the game the way it was called last year," said Arenas, who went to the free-throw line seven times. "It's just real inconsistent right now and I'm trying to figure out the angle If someone's holding me down and blocking my shot, you've got to call that."
A few minutes before Arenas spoke, Jordan alluded to frustrations with his players' frustrations.
"You get caught up in calls," the coach said, "and that's been happening too long now."
While Arenas was frustrated with a lack of calls in his favor, one call that went against him could have cost the Wizards.
A layup by Tyronn Lue (18 points) pulled the Hawks (5-7) within 96-95 with 50.5 seconds left. At the other end of the floor, Arenas tried an 18-foot fadeaway, but was whistled for an offensive foul when he used his left forearm to clear space between himself and Lue.
The Hawks, not surprisingly, got the ball to Johnson. But the Wizards (5-9) came with a quick double-team, forcing the slithery forward to give up the ball. The double-team seemed to throw Atlanta out of rhythm, and the visitors settled for a 3-point try in the right corner by Josh Smith, who made just 3 of 16 shots.
The jumper was long, and caromed out toward halfcourt. Wizards forward Jarvis Hayes fell to the ground as he went for possession, and he inadvertently kicked the ball, giving the Hawks a final chance with 10 seconds left.
This time, Johnson took the inbounds pass and was not going to wait for a double-team. He dribbled toward the left elbow and fired a 17-footer, but the shot caromed off the rim. Hawks rookie center Zaza Pachulia tapped the ball out to Johnson, whose one-handed volleyball-style offering came after time had expired.
"It was one of those games that wasn't pretty," Jamison said, "but we were fortunate to rely on our defense the last three or four minutes."
The Hawks shot just 38 percent from the floor in the final period while the Wizards made 50 percent of their shots.
Hayes, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, made two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and also helped defend Johnson in the final moments.
The Wizards on Friday play host to the Charlotte Bobcats. Washington is 5-2 at the Verizon Center this year, but 0-7 on the road.
WIZARDS 96, HAWKS 95
Smith 3-16 3-5 9, S.Williams 4-7 1-1 9, Pachulia 3-10 2-2 8, Johnson 12-22 6-8 33, Claxton 1-4 0-0 2, Bozeman 0-1 0-0 0, Lue 6-10 3-4 18, Wright 1-2 0-0 2, Stoudamire 3-6 0-0 8, Freije 3-7 0-0 6, Jones 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 36-86 15-20 95.
Butler 3-10 15-15 21, Jamison 6-17 3-4 18, Thomas 3-3 0-1 6, Stevenson 2-2 3-3 7, Arenas 7-19 5-7 21, Haywood 4-6 0-0 8, Hayes 3-3 0-0 9, Daniels 2-5 0-2 4, Taylor 1-1 0-0 2, Lang 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-66 26-32 96.
3-Point Goals--Atlanta 8-18 (Lue 3-3, Johnson 3-7, Stoudamire 2-2, Freije 0-2, Smith 0-4), Washington 8-19 (Hayes 3-3, Jamison 3-9, Arenas 2-5, Butler 0-1, Daniels 0-1). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Atlanta 52 (Pachulia 14), Washington 44 (Butler, Haywood 8). Assists--Atlanta 24 (Johnson 8), Washington 21 (Arenas 7). Total Fouls--Atlanta 29, Washington 23. Technicals--Pachulia, Haywood. A--14,403. (20,173).
To reach ADAM HIMMELSBACH:
Wizards xx, Hawks xx