for this game

Blatche career-high 30; Wizards top Nets 123-104

Nov 1, 2009 - 2:25 AM By JOSEPH WHITE AP Sports Writer

WASHINGTON(AP) -- Gilbert Arenas scored 32 points, barely cracked a smile on the court and afterward declared: "I don't get excited anymore."

Andray Blatche scored a flashy career-high 30, strutted to the crowd after a highlight-reel baseline dunk and wore his fancy sunglasses as he approached reporters in the locker room.

"If he does the interview with shades on, I'm leaving!" proclaimed his next-door locker neighbor, center Brendan Haywood.

Who needs Arenas to be Agent Zero if Blatche is going to be a Super Seven? The fifth-year player, whose career had been too much hit-and-miss, is on a roll for the Washington Wizards, who overcame the absence of two starting forwards Saturday night to beat the New Jersey Nets 123-104.

"We've been waiting for this for four or five years now," Arenas said. "He finally decided this year was the year. He put in the work and it's showing."

The Wizards had two-time All-Stars Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison on the bench in their expensive dark suits for the home opener. Butler sat out after bruising his left knee in Friday night's loss to Atlanta, and Jamison is out at least two more weeks with an injured right shoulder - bothersome news for a team that hasn't had its top players healthy in a long time.

But Arenas and Blatche carried the load with room to spare. Arenas made 9 of 13 shots, 11 of 12 free throws and had seven assists. Blatche went 15 for 18 from the field and, curiously enough, didn't attempt a single free throw. The Wizards shot 61.5 percent - their best shooting game in seven years - and left Nets coach Lawrence Frank calling his defense "pitiful."

"It was a very, very dismal defensive performance," Frank said. "It's a total breakdown. There were so many things that go into it that it's hard to minimize it into one or two things."

Chris Douglas-Roberts had a career-high 25 points to lead the Nets, who were missing point guard Devin Harris - out at least a week with an injured right groin. Rafer Alston scored 20 points starting in Harris' spot as New Jersey fell to 0-3 for the first time since 1999.

The Wizards guessed right when they decided to pass out Arenas masks for Halloween, given that he was the only one of the team's Big Three who could play. Though still announced as Agent Zero during the pregame hoopla, Arenas looks as if he really has ditched his flamboyant alter ego.

Arenas was virtually expressionless on the court and walked toward the bench after hitting a halfcourt buzzer-beater to end the first quarter as if he were walking down a hallway somewhere - without even raising his arms to acknowledge the cheers. He's only talking to reporters because the league fined him for not doing so, and most of his answers are monotone and straightforward.

"He's very serious right now," coach Flip Saunders said. "He's very committed."

Blatche, on the other hand, is having some overdue fun. He's averaging 21 points and shooting 72 percent three games into the season. After taking off his shades, he gave credit to assistant coach Sam Cassell and teammate DeShawn Stevenson for staying on his case and improving his work ethic and diet.

"I feel more comfortable. I have a lot more confidence," said Blatche, who also changed his jersey number from 32 to 7. "The game has slowed down for me."

Saunders joked that Blatche showed off some moves that even Blatche didn't know he had.

Blatche's response: "Flip need to cool out. I've been doing this for a while. It just happened to start falling for me."

NOTES: Arenas, who missed most of the last two seasons with knee problems, last had a 30-point game on Nov. 14, 2007, against Indiana. ... Harris, who also had a groin problem during preseason, felt it act up during the Nets' loss to Orlando on Friday and will see a specialist in Chicago on Sunday. ... Butler is expected to return for Tuesday's game against Cleveland. Mike Miller moved to Butler's small forward in the Wizards starting lineup, and Randy Foye started at shooting guard. ... None of Washington's starting five were playing for the team at the start of last season. Arenas and Haywood were hurt, and Miller, Foye and Fabricio Oberto were acquired in the offseason.

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