Wizards stumble but hold on for 10th straight home winJan 21, 2007 - 6:04 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- The Washington Wizards assumed the mantel of best team in the Eastern Conference, but it was hard to tell.
The Wizards squandered a 21-point second-half lead and endured sloppy games by their top two players before needing overtime to dispatch the injury-riddled Boston Celtics, 115-110, for their 10th straight home win.
Caron Butler scored 23 points and Gilbert Arenas added 22 for Washington (24-16), which has won four in a row to inch ahead of Cleveland for the best record in the East. Three of those wins have come down to the final possession or overtime.
"It's been some close games at home," Arenas said. "That's what basketball's all about. I know the fans love the ending of the game. We are doing a great job holding down the fort. The best teams in the league have a great home record, which is exactly what we have right now."
After scrambling late in regulation to avoid an embarrassing loss, the Wizards never trailed in overtime. Antawn Jamison drained a 3-pointer and Brendan Haywood sank two free throws for a 107-102 lead.
A driving layup and jumper by Arenas - who made just 10-of-26 shots and committed four turnovers - kept the margin at 113-108 with 1:22 to go.
Butler - who had 11 rebounds and seven assists but made just 7-of-17 shots and committed four turnovers - had a chance to seal it but missed a breakaway dunk with 46 seconds remaining.
"It was an ugly game," Butler said.
Celtics rookie Allan Ray hit a jumper to make it a one-possession game. Boston got that possession when Antonio Daniels missed a runner, but Butler made a steal and fed Arenas for the clinching layup.
Jamison scored 23 points and Haywood and Daniels added 12 apiece for the Wizards, who got lazy in the second half and nearly gave away the game. They made youngsters Ray, Ryan Gomes and Rajon Rondo look like stars for the Celtics, who have lost a season-high seven in a row.
"They played great defense for the second half so I was really proud of them," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Allan Ray was terrific. Ryan Gomes was terrific."
Gomes had a career-high 31 points and nine rebounds. Ray scored 20 points off the bench and fellow rookie backcourt mate Rondo added 10, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
"I think we showed toughness and showed that we wanted to win this game for being down that much," Gomes said. "Some teams might have tanked it in the third quarter when we were down 21 and they kept pressing us, but we played great defense and slowed who we wanted to slow down tonight - Gilbert Arenas."
Despite leaving briefly with a hyperextended knee, Jamison scored 14 points in the first half, as the Wizards built a 62-49 lead. A 3-pointer by Arenas - his only basket in the middle two quarters - capped a 13-5 surge that opened the second half and gave Washington its largest lead at 75-54.
"We started out great but after building that big lead, we got too comfortable and it almost cost us the game," Arenas said.
The Celtics stormed back behind Al Jefferson, who scored 15 of his 23 points in the third period to cut the deficit to 85-84. Gomes scored 11 points in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter as Boston built a 99-93 lead.
"It was a good comeback," Jefferson said. "(It) would have been even better if we would have finished, but we came back against a great team, pushed it into overtime and had a chance to win it."
"Games come in different sizes, shapes and rhythms," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "We were doing OK, we had a decent lead, but they just kept coming back."
Arenas hit a jumper to give the Wizards a 102-101 lead with 1:46 left. But a free throw by Gomes tied it, and Arenas missed a pair of shots down the stretch.
"It should've never gotten down to that point," Jamison said. "We put ourselves in a difficult situation."
WASHINGTON 115 FINAL IN 1ST OT
Jan 20 10:39 PM
WASHINGTON 85 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 20 9:52 PM
WASHINGTON 62 HALFTIME
Jan 20 9:12 PM
END 1ST QTR 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
BOSTON 26 26
WASHINGTON 39 39 END 1ST QTR
HIGH SCORERS AFTER 1ST QUARTER
BOS - RYAN GOMES 10, DELONTE WEST 6, GERALD
WAS - GILBERT ARENAS 11, JARVIS HAYES 8,
ANTAWN JAMISON 7
Jan 20 8:37 PM
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