7:00 PM ET, April 18, 2006
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rarely has so much fuss been made over fifth place. Gilbert Arenas and Michael Redd treated it like a golden prize Tuesday night, scoring 43 points apiece for the chance to avoid Detroit, Miami or New Jersey in the first round of the playoffs.
Arenas came out on top, taking over the game early in the fourth quarter to lead the Washington Wizards to a 116-103 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, a result that added only a little clarity to the congested Eastern Conference standings heading into the last day of the regular season.
The victory gave the Wizards a one-game lead over Chicago and Indiana and a 1½-game lead over Milwaukee. All four teams have clinched playoff berths, but their seeds won't be decided until Wednesday.
Washington will take the No. 5 seed with a victory at Detroit on Wednesday -- the Pistons will have little motivation with their No. 1 seed already secured -- or with a Chicago loss at home to Toronto. The Wizards can finish no worse than seventh.
Fifth is important because no one wants to face one of the top three seeds when Cleveland, returning to the playoffs after an eight-year absence, is an available opponent at No. 4.
"When we ended our season last year, it was in the fifth spot," Arenas said, "so we're in fifth spot until somebody takes it from us. And the only people that can take it from us is the Detroit Pistons."
Contrast that with the mood of Redd, who found no solace in a career-high scoring night. The Bucks would have clinched the fifth seed by beating the Wizards, but instead they ended their regular season with a 40-42 record and at the mercy of Wednesday's results to determine whether they will finish any higher than eighth.
"I'm sick to my stomach," Redd said. "That's all I can say now. I'm not a bit happy. I know we're in the playoffs but I want more than that, man. I shouldn't be thinking like this, but I'm totally frustrated, totally frustrated."
Arenas and Redd had remarkably similar lines in the box score. Both scored 31 points in the second half. Redd finished 11-for-21 from the field and 18-for-19 from the free-throw line, while Arenas was 12-for-24 and 17-for-19.
The game turned after the Bucks opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run to take a 90-87 lead -- their first lead since early in the second quarter. The Wizards called timeout and starting switching defenders on Redd, while Arenas took control by scoring 11 points in a 15-3 run. Redd was shut down for a vital few minutes, and the game was effectively over. The Wizards ended the game with a 12-4 run.
"I see he was trying to carry his team on his back. I was trying to do the same thing," Arenas said. "He got frustrated because he didn't have the open look. It hurt them for about three, four minutes, and that's all we needed."
Antawn Jamison added 28 points, and Caron Butler scored 22 for the Wizards, who have won two straight after a five-game losing streak. The two wins coincided with the return of Butler, who missed five games with a sprained right thumb.
T.J. Ford scored 26 points, and Bobby Simmons had 20 before fouling out with 4:40 to play after committing three fouls in less than a minute. The Bucks committed 16 turnovers, leading to 31 Wizards points.
"Both team wanted to get the fifth seed," Milwaukee coach Terry Stotts said. "I told the team we're disappointed now and we should be disappointed. But we can't dwell on this and let the disappointment of this loss carry over into the playoffs."
Milwaukee led 23-20 at the end of the first quarter, but the Bucks were sloppy after Ford left the game in the second. Toni Kukoc came off the bench and committed three turnovers in less than 3 minutes, including a strip by Arenas that led to a fast-break dunk by Antonio Daniels. The turnover differential was 6-0 in the quarter -- points-off-turnovers was 12-0 -- and the Wizards had runs of 8-2, 7-0 and 7-1 to take a 54-43 halftime lead.
Redd took over in the third quarter, scoring 12 straight Bucks points as Milwaukee methodically trimmed the deficit. The score stood at 83-79 Wizards when the quarter ended in bizarre fashion.
First, Daniels pushed Andrew Bogut into Redd as Redd was attempting a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left. Redd was awarded three shots and made them all to cut the lead to one. Arenas then drove the court and launched a running 3-pointer at the horn. Simmons was whistled for a foul, and Stotts was given a technical for arguing the call. Arenas made four straight free throws to put Washington ahead 87-82 going into the fourth.
Bucks G Maurice Williams returned after missing one game with sprained left ankle. ... Wizards F Etan Thomas sat out his second straight game with a sprained lower back. Coach Eddie Jordan said Thomas will "probably not" be available for Wednesday's game. ... Redd became the second player in franchise history to score 2,000 points in a season. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in five times. Redd also passed Jon McGlocklin to move into 11th place on the team all-time scoring list. ... The Bucks would have clinched fifth with a win because they had beaten the Wizards twice earlier this season, both times by three points.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||35-73 (.479)||39-80 (.488)|
|3PM-3PA||8-27 (.296)||7-21 (.333)|
|FTM-FTA||25-27 (.926)||31-41 (.756)|
|Fast Break Points||8||15|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||27 (1/1)||22 (0/0)|