WASHINGTON -- The reserves for the NBA's Eastern Conference All-Star team will be announced tonight on national television, and Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas did his best last night to make a few people second-guess the decision if he is not selected.
Arenas scored 45 points, two shy of his career high, but he needed a season-high 34 points and a career-high 15 rebounds from Caron Butler, as well as some much-needed defense from backup center Michael Ruffin, to help the Wizards beat the Golden State Warriors, 129-124, at MCI Center.
The victory was the third straight for Washington (24-23) and put the Wizards over the .500 mark for the first time since November. Arenas, the league's fourth-leading scorer at more than 28 points a game, made it clear how he would feel if he is not an All-Star for the second straight year.
Asked if he thought his sixth game with more than 40 points this season helped his chances, Arenas said, "I didn't know I was on the bubble. I didn't know I had to worry about it. We're winning. I know I'm an All-Star. I'm playing like an All-Star."
Ruffin will probably never be an All-Star, but the little-used backup center was crucial to his team's success in slowing down the high-scoring Warriors and setting a defensive tone after entering the game for the first time in the third quarter.
After Wizards coach Eddie Jordan got tired of watching starting center Brendan Haywood allow the Warriors too many easy layups and second chances in a 62-62 first half - it was the most points the Wizards had allowed in a half this season - Ruffin helped Washington regain the lead.
"I thought we played very good defense when we had to. I thought Michael Ruffin again was an integral part of our success in the second half," Jordan said. "When we put A.D. [Antonio Daniels] and Michael in in the second half, that was really the spurt for us."
Trailing 76-73 when Ruffin removed his warmups, the Wizards were ahead 91-88 by the end of the third quarter and led by as many 13 before Golden State (22-26) closed to within 115-111 with 1:04 remaining. Washington made its last 16 free throws, half of them by Arenas, who set a franchise record with 23 (in 25 attempts).
Though the final score might indicate otherwise, Jordan was happy that his team didn't get into a run-and-gun battle with the Warriors.
"We ran our offense. We didn't try to play like them," Jordan said. "They can lull you into that style of game. We wanted to stay organized. We wanted to move the basketball and get the ball in people's hands, and that meant Caron, and Gil and even Michael Ruffin, 3-for-3 from the field. Very pretty."
Golden State 35 27 26 36 - 124
Washington 32 30 29 38 - 129
GOLDEN STATE-Pietrus 7-13 2-2 18, Murphy 5-6 4-5 14, Foyle 0-0 0-0 0, Richardson 13-20 2-2 31, B.Davis 8-21 11-17 28, Biedrins 1-1 0-0 2, Dunleavy 5-8 2-2 13, Fisher 2-5 2-2 7, Diogu 0-1 0-0 0, Ellis 5-7 1-1 11, Cabarkapa 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 46-82 24-31 124. WASHINGTON-Butler 12-24 10-12 34, Jamison 6-14 4-4 18, Haywood 2-2 1-1 5, Jeffries 1-2 0-0 2, Arenas 11-24 23-25 45, Daniels 2-5 7-8 11, Storey 1-2 0-0 3, E.Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor 1-2 1-1 3, Ruffin 3-3 2-4 8.
Totals 39-78 48-55 129. 3-point goals - Golden State 8-26 (Richardson 3-7, Pietrus 2-6, Dunleavy 1-2, Fisher 1-3, B.Davis 1-6, Ellis 0-2), Washington 3-15 (Jamison 2-3, Storey 1-1, Daniels 0-2, Butler 0-4, Arenas 0-5). Fouled out - Richardson, Biedrins, B.Davis. Rebounds - Golden State 42 (Murphy 12), Washington 47 (Butler 15). Assists - Golden State 25 (B.Davis 13), Washington 22 (Arenas 7). Total fouls - Golden State 41, Washington 25. Technicals-Golden State Defensive Three Second, Dunleavy, B.Davis. A - 13,228. (20,173).