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Arenas scores 41 as Wizards squeak by Suns in Phoenix

PHOENIX (AP) -- Gilbert Arenas gave the Washington Wizards a huge
effort, and it was just enough.

Arenas scored 41 points Friday night, and the Wizards beat the
Phoenix Suns 112-111 despite his poor foul shooting down the
stretch.

Arenas made what proved to be the decisive free throw with 44
seconds to go, giving Washington a 112-109 lead on his first
attempt. Then he missed three more, coming up two points short of
his season high.

"It's just one of those nights where it feels good, but they
don't drop," said Arenas, who was 5-of-10 from the line and
15-of-24 from the floor. "You know, two of them went in the rim
and came back out."

Arenas could have iced the game with 12 seconds left, but he
missed both foul shots, and Shawn Marion rebounded for the Suns.

At the other end, Steve Nash passed to Boris Diaw, who drove the
right side but missed a jump hook. The Wizards' Caron Butler
knocked the ball out of bounds, and Phoenix got one shot with a
fraction of a second left.

Jim Jackson passed to Nash, but his 20-footer from the side hit
both sides of the rim and then popped out.

Butler scored 26 points for the Wizards, who had lost 12 of 17
games before beating Denver on Wednesday. Antawn Jamison had 22
points and 13 rebounds, leading the Wizards to a 52-30 domination
of the glass, including 14 offensive rebounds.

"I told our guys that if we fight that hard, with that much
sincerity, the basketball gods smile upon you," Washington coach
Eddie Jordan said.

He made a believer of Butler, who said: "The ball dropped our
way, finally, and we're very excited."

Nash had 27 points and nine assists. James Jones and Kurt Thomas
each had 18 points, Raja Bell scored 15 and Marion had 12.

Coupled with the Los Angeles Clippers' win at Charlotte, the
loss cost the Suns first place in the Pacific Division after just
two days on top.

"I'm at a loss for words right now," Marion said. "It was a
tough loss. I'm a little frustrated."

There were 32 lead changes and 16 ties in the game.

Phoenix seemed on the way to a win when it started the fourth
quarter with a 9-0 run, going up 94-87 on Jones' 3-pointer with
7:31 left in the game.

But the Wizards responded with a 10-2 spurt, going back ahead at
97-96 on a 3-pointer by Chucky Atkins with 5:53 to go.

"We didn't put the hammer down," Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni
said. "There's a point in the game when you have to do that, and
we didn't."

Washington took a 69-63 lead, its biggest of the game, when
Arenas dished off to Jamison for a jump hook with 7:28 left in the
third quarter. But the lead changed hands eight times in the period
before Arenas sent the Wizards to an 87-85 lead with the last of
his six 3-pointers.

"The way I go is the way the team goes," Arenas said. "So if
I can get hot early, you know, it puts a lot of pressure on
everybody, and then they free up Caron and Antawn."

The Wizards led most of the first quarter, with Arenas scoring
14 points and Jamison 12. But no more than four points separated
the teams in the first half, which ended with Washington up 57-55
after a free throw by Butler.

Game notes
Wizards C Etan Thomas warmed up for the game, but the team
decided to hold him out because of a left hip strain. ... The win
was Washington's second in 17 games in Phoenix. ... Jones started
for the Suns a day after spending practice pedaling on a stationary
bicycle to rehab his swollen right ankle. He missed four games
because of the ankle before returning Tuesday against Seattle. ...
Butler made his second straight start after coming off the bench
all season. ... Arenas, who took nine 3-pointers, finished the game
averaging 28.5 points, highest for the Wizards since Walt Bellamy
averaged a team record 31.7 points in 1961-62.

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