WASHINGTON -- With tired legs and a comfortable lead against a short-handed opponent, the Washington Wizards starting playing horrible basketball.
Missed free throws. Careless fouls. Bad defense. Soon the 21-point lead was gone, and the Boston Celtics had forced overtime.
Somehow, the Wizards won, 115-110, setting a Verizon Center record with their 10th straight home victory. But this Saturday night performance was not suitable for framing.
"We got lackadaisical," said Gilbert Arenas, who was 2-for-10 in the third and fourth quarters and finished with 22 points. "They came back and made a great run, and we had to win it in overtime. We had to dig down deep. People were fatigued. But, like professionals, we came out and we got the win."
Antawn Jamison, who missed part of the first half after hyperextending his left knee, scored 23 points and had two baskets in the 7-2 run at the start of overtime. Butler had 23 points, 11 rebounds and a steal that kept Allan Ray from taking a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of the extra period.
"Games come in different sizes, shapes and rhythms," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "We were doing OK, we had a decent lead, but they just kept coming back. ... We made a lot of mistakes."
The Wizards, coming off an big win over division rival Orlando the night before, have won four in a row overall and improved their home record to 17-3. The home streak is the longest since the downtown arena opened in 1997. The last time the franchise won 10 consecutive home games was in 1989, when the Bullets won 15 straight.
Ryan Gomes scored a career-high 31 points, and Al Jefferson had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and Ray scored 20 points for the Celtics, who have lost seven straight. Coach Doc Rivers' team, also playing the second half of a back-to-back, was resilient against the Wizards despite a young lineup missing injured players Paul Pierce, Theo Ratliff, Brian Salabrine and Wally Szczerbiak.
"They're doing it every night. I just wish there was some way I could get them a win because they're playing with unbelievable emotion, unbelievable spirit," Rivers said. "They were down all game. There really was no sign of us coming back a lot of times. Our goal was just getting it to a point where it made them uncomfortable."
They achieved that goal and more. The game looked like the mismatch it was expected to be for more than a half -- Arenas' 3-pointer gave the Wizards a 75-54 lead early in the third quarter -- but Washington got complacent while Jefferson scored 13 points and Ray made three 3-pointers in a 30-10 run.
After Arenas missed a baseline dunk in the fourth quarter, Boston took its first lead of the game on a pair of free throws by Ray. Jefferson's jumper put the Celtics ahead 99-93, but the Wizards responded with a 7-0 spurt to take a one-point lead. Baskets were traded, then Gomes made one of two free throws to tie it at 102 with 1:26 left.
Neither team scored again in regulation. Arenas wasn't able to replicate his buzzer-beating magic of the past month, missing a long 3-pointer from the right wing to send the game to overtime.
But the Wizards persevered to get the ugly win.
"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," Gomes said. "Still, at the end of the day, we want to win."
- Jamison was hurt when West fell backward into Jamison's lower leg late in the first quarter. Jamison crumpled to the court in pain and limped off a couple of minutes later, but he was back early in the second.
- With the Wizards atop the Eastern Conference standings, Jordan has a chance to become the first Wizards coach to coach in the All-Star game since Dick Motta in 1979. The honor goes to the coach whose team is in first place through the games on Feb. 4. Jordan, though, has other plans. "I've got a vacation planned," he said. "It's going to be a nice vacation with my children, my dogs." So, would he decline the assignment? "No way will I decline," he said. "It would be a great honor." Still, he said he's trying not to think too much about it: "You've been around long enough to know you could be so close to something, get your hopes up, and then all of a sudden something changes and you don't get it. So I'm going to be happy either way, let's say that."