After a week-and-a-half of passive basketball since returning from a knee injury, Arenas took over the game by scoring 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter Saturday night in a 109-93 victory over the 76ers.
Arenas opened the quarter with his own personal 7-0 run that gave the Wizards the lead for good. He went 5-for-6 from the field in the period, leading a charge that had Washington outscoring Philadelphia 31-9 and holding the 76ers to 1-for-15 shooting in the 12-minute frame.
"He's getting his mojo back," teammate DeShawn Stevenson said. "He's pushing the ball up fast, doing his moves like he usually does. I was just glad to see him out there looking like the old Gilbert."
The victory means the Wizards can finish no worse than sixth in the Eastern Conference, and that they can't be caught by the 76ers. Washington leads Philadelphia by two games with two to play and owns the tiebreaker due to a better conference record.
Arenas was a quiet contributor off the bench in his first four games after missing 66 with a knee injury, making only 16 of 41 field goal attempts and not playing more than 24 minutes. He was a sub again Saturday, playing 25 minutes, but he was 7-for-14 with seven rebounds and five assists.
Asked if, in a perfect world, that's the type of game he would want from Arenas right now, coach Eddie Jordan quipped: "That, and my wife not arguing with me. That would be a perfect world."
Antawn Jamison added 25 points and 13 rebounds for the Wizards, who have won four of five. Washington recovered well from a 102-74 loss at Detroit on Friday night.
Andre Iguodala had 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds to lead Philadelphia. His 3-pointer with 8:29 to play was the only field goal of the final quarter for the 76ers, who have lost three of four to dampen a strong surge over the second half of the season.
The only consolation for Philadelphia was Atlanta's loss to Boston, a result that means Philadelphia can finish no worse than seventh.
"We have a lot of young guys, so that could be a problem," Iguodala said. "I hope we just go out there and continue to play, just realizing that we don't have nothing to lose anyway. We're not expected to be here, so we've just got to continue to play hard."
Arenas was barely noticeable in his sporadic moments on the floor until the teams took to the court for the fourth quarter with the Wizards trailing 84-78. The three-time All-Star hit a 3-pointer on his team's first possession, then followed with a pair of long 2-pointers to give Washington an 85-84 lead.
A couple of minutes later, Arenas made a behind-the-back move on Andre Miller for a layup. Then came a nice drive-and-dish to Andray Blatche and another feed to Jamison, both part of a 10-0 run that made the score 101-91 with 4½ minutes left.
The Hibachi was finally hot.
"It's a world of difference, man," Jamison said. "You miss it. For him to come out there and play the way he did says volumes about how much he means to this team. I'm glad that we're getting him this time of the season going into the playoffs. He makes us go."
Arenas hasn't spoken to reporters since returning, but he finally expressed some of his feelings in his blog on Friday.
"I know most players, when they come back, especially when they're the franchise player on the team, they can interrupt what's going on," he wrote. "Instead of coming in and trying to fulfill what I used to do right away, I just wanted to come in as a role player and add to what the team was already doing."
The 76ers had a torrid start that included a 15-0 run in the first quarter, but their advantage was negated by 11 first-half turnovers. The Wizards rallied to take a 57-53 halftime lead.
"It just came down to the fourth quarter," Philadelphia guard Willie Green said. "And that's where I think their experience edged us out a little bit."
- Washington F Caron Butler missed the game with a bruised right knee. The Wizards are 9-13 without him this season.
- Iguodala started despite bruising his left leg in Friday night's loss to Indiana.
- Philadelphia had a 28-6 advantage in fast-break points but was outrebounded 48-36.
- The teams split the season series 2-2.