7:00 PM ET, February 22, 2007
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
WASHINGTON -- With 0.7 on the clock and the Sacramento Kings trailing the Washington Wizards by three, Brad Miller threw a splendid 80-foot pass to John Salmons. Salmons made the catch, moved his right foot behind the 3-point arc and fired.
Good! The Kings rushed onto the floor in wild celebration.
Gilbert Arenas scored 30 of his 43 points in the first half of the Wizards' victory over the Kings. It was the most points by an NBA player in the first half of a game since Kobe Bryant dropped 30 in the opening half against the Warriors on April 11, 2006.
Arenas scored 31 points in the second half of a game against the Jazz on Jan. 15. He's the only NBA player to score 30 (or more) points in a half more than once this season. Elias Says
But the officials ruled it a 2-point basket, setting up the real moment of drama: the video review.
It turned the call was doubly wrong. The replay showed the basket was a 3-pointer, but the rectangle of lights around the basket that signal the end of the game turned red while Salmons still had the slightest of contact with the ball at the end of his release.
No basket. The Wizards win, 109-106.
"I was thinking we were going to overtime, then they just called the game," Salmons said. "The time was close. You couldn't really tell one way or the other. I don't know if it's the right thing to call the game or not, but they called it. ... Any time you lose on a controversial call, it's tough because you feel like they took it out of your hands."
It was a fitting end to a wild Thursday night game that featured a first-half duel between Gilbert Arenas and Ron Artest, a second-half duel between Caron Butler and Mike Bibby, a blown 17-point fourth-quarter lead by the Wizards and 47 combined turnovers.
"There are different ways to win in this league," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "And the most important thing is we won."
Arenas scored 30 of his 43 points in the first half and finished with an extremely active box score line: 12-for-22 from the field, 3-for-8 from 3-point range, 16-for-17 from the free throw line, seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals and nine of the Wizards' season-high 23 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Butler scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half. DeShawn Stevenson finished with 21 points for the Wizards, who won their third straight and improved to 4-4 since Antawn Jamison was sidelined with a knee injury.
The Kings' stars also played tag-team ball. Artest had 21 of his 32 points by halftime, while 22 of Bibby's 30 came after the break. Artest was disappointed that he took only five shots in the second half.
"I tried to do a little bit more, but Coach just stopped going to me," Artest said.
The Wizards seemed to be in control with a 95-78 lead early in the fourth, but Bibby made two 3-pointers in a 14-0 run to set up the tight finish.
Arenas' two free throws with 38 seconds to play gave the Wizards a 104-103 lead. Butler stripped Bibby on the next possession, then was tripped by Bibby on the fast break. Butler made one of two free throws to give Washington a two-point lead.
The Kings tried to set up for a tying or go-ahead basket, but Salmons shuffled his feet in the lane against tough defense from Stevenson. There were three more made free throws by the Wizards and a 3-pointer by Salmons in the furious final moments -- then Arenas made one of two free throws with 0.7 on the clock.
Then came Salmons' final shot -- and the review.
"I was just holding my breath," Butler said.
"It looked good to me," Bibby said. "We came in here and watched it. It looked good."
Arenas was needled by teammate Stevenson after Tuesday's game for having a lower shooting percentage on the season -- 50 to 42 -- and he seemed determined to make up the eight-point differential in one night. He and Artest put on quite a show from the opening whistle, both starting 6-for-6 from the field and combining for 32 of the game's first 52 points.
But that was only the opening act of a very eventful game.
"It was ugly, right?" Washington center Brendan Haywood said. "It was a good win for us. However we got it, we got it."
Gilbertology update: Arenas offered up his best excuses for dodging reporters this week. He said he left quickly after Tuesday's victory over Minnesota because he wanted to see the movie "Hannibal Rising" -- he shrugged his shoulders in disappointment when asked for a review -- and beat a quick path out of the arena Thursday to prepare for the upcoming road trip. "I have to pack," he said. Why couldn't he pack before the game? Because, Arenas said, a power outage prevented him from getting into his own house, which has a sophisticated security system. Apparently, he's saving "the dog ate my homework" for a later date. ... Neither team made a move before Thursday's trade deadline. The one player who might have been on the block was Bibby. "I think any time there is speculation, it can affect you," Kings coach Eric Musselman said. "There won't be any speculation now." ... Stevenson, who has been calling himself "Mr. Fifty" to reflect his shooting mark, stayed above break-even by going 8-for-14.