for this game

Arenas breaks out with 44 points as Wizards top Celtics

Nov 5, 2006 - 3:04 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- When the Boston Celtics showed up at the Verizon Center, Gilbert Arenas knew his struggles were behind him.

Arenas scored 16 of his 44 points in the third quarter and provided the dagger in the final period as the Washington Wizards kept the Celtics winless with a 124-117 victory in their home opener.

Fourth in the NBA in scoring last season at 29.3 points per game, Arenas managed just seven points on 2-of-11 shooting in Washington's season-opening loss at Cleveland on Wednesday.

"I think I was just haunted by foul trouble in that first game so I didn't really get a rhythm in that one," Arenas said. "For the last two weeks, I've felt that my shot has been on fire and I finally got to display it tonight."

"He knew what was at stake, and he knew he had to come out and be a little bit more aggressive tonight," teammate Caron Butler said.

The All-Star guard averaged nearly 32 points in four games against the Celtics last season and picked up right where he left off, torturing them with speedy drives and long-range jumpers.

"Maybe because they're younger, they haven't figured out how to stop me yet," Arenas said. "I'm just trying to take advantage of the young boys, and maybe that's the reason."

"We knew he would come out and play hard because he struggled the other night against Cleveland," Boston coach Doc Rivers said.

Arenas made 14-of-25 shots, including 5-of-10 3-pointers, and 11-of-12 free throws. Of all things, he credited the league's new basketball.

"It's a shooter's ball," he said. "Those easy bounces are going in. If you look at some of those shots even on SportsCenter, when it hits the rim, it's staying. It's not bouncing all the way out. I like it. As long as the ball goes in, I'm good with it."

In the third quarter, Arenas made consecutive 3-pointers to squelch a rally by the Celtics, who had pulled within 71-70. He added a steal and layup to give Washington an 81-70 lead at the 5:26 mark.

Arenas, who had 11 40-point games last season, closed the quarter with another 3-pointer that kept the margin at 98-88. After taking a rest, he returned and drained another shot from the arc for a 109-96 bulge with 5:52 to play.

"I found my rhythm this game," he said. "I think I was just anxious that first game (because) I wanted to get back out there. But I made some good plays with the ball, being a floor leader the first game. Tonight, I was back to my old self - scoring, distributing the ball, just keeping it up-tempo."

Boston kept coming and closed to 115-109 on two free throws by Wally Szczerbiak, who scored 33 points despite taking four stitches over his right eye after a first-half collision. Arenas again had the answer, draining a jumper with 1:46 remaining.

Antawn Jamison scored 29 points and Butler added 20 for the Wizards, who shot 52 percent (43-of-82) and committed just 10 turnovers.

Sebastian Telfair scored 24 points and Paul Pierce added 23 and 12 rebounds for the Celtics, who shot 53 percent (37-of-70) and held a 43-28 advantage on the glass. However, Boston committed 23 turnovers.

"We gave them points off of turnovers and that was the difference in the game," Rivers said. "They scored 29 points on 23 turnovers and probably 15 of them were on bad passes."

Boston has lost its first three games for the first time since 1994. Its defense has gotten progressively worse. The Celtics allowed 91 and 101 points in a pair of home losses.

"This team is positive and we're going to continue to keep everything positive in the locker room," Pierce said. "There are still 79 games left to turn things around."

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