Pistons, 98, Wizards, 96

Regardless of the final result, the mere presence of Gilbert Arenas sent a jolt of energy into the Washington Wizards and their fans that has been absent all season. Arenas has a flare for the dramatic, so it was only fitting that he had an opportunity to decide the game in the closing seconds. But it was obvious that he hasn't played an NBA game in more than 11 months, because even he questioned his decision-making on that final, futile shot.

With the Wizards trailing by two and 4.5 seconds left, Arenas missed his second free throw -- which he admitted he didn't do intentionally -- and fought off Richard Hamilton to corral the loose ball. He plenty of time to call timeout, or even take a better shot to force overtime. Instead, Arenas scrambled into the corner and attempted a fall-away three-pointer. "One of those mental errors," Arenas said afterward.

Wizards Coach Ed Tapscott said he couldn't see whether former Wizards No. 1 pick Kwame Brown fouled Arenas on the play but added, "It was Gilbert, so a whistle would not have surprised me."

Arenas said he wasn't fouled on the play and credited Brown for doing "a great defensive job. I tried to use the ball to get some space but he was there."

Said Brown, who was able to emerge victorious in his old stomping grounds, "He tried to stick his leg out to draw the foul and they didn't call it. It was a good job by the officials for not calling the foul."

Aside for the final hectic sequence, Arenas played relatively well -- 15 points, 10 assists -- considering how much game action he's missed. His 3-for-12 shooting performance can be attributed to rust. But Arenas got the Wizards going offensively from the jump, as he found Andray Blatche cutting to the lane for a layup. He then calmly dribbled the ball behind his back and threw an alley-oop lob to Dominic McGuire. Later, he drove into the lane, drew the defense and dropped a bounce pass to Blatche for an uncontested dunk. And finally, Arenas hit Butler for another layup.

Butler, back after missing the past six games with a hamstring injury, later returned the favor as he secured his own lost dribble, then spotted Arenas camped out above the three-point line. Arenas buried the open three-pointer, much to the delight of the crowd, to give his team an 11-2 lead with 8:22 left and forced Pistons Coach Michael Curry to call timeout.

The Pistons responded with a 20-10 run over the next six minutes, but Arenas gave his team a 23-22 lead when he hit two free throws before Wizards Coach Ed Tapscott replaced him with Javaris Crittenton.

From there, Arenas had some struggles taking "quality shots." He took some jumpers off one leg, appeared hesitant on others. And one time, I thought he was going to leave a crater in JaVale McGee's chest with a Brett Favre-like pass that ricocheted of McGee for a turnover in the third quarter.

But his teammates were clearly fired up to have him back, especially as he helped them come back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit. "The feeling was so good just to have the fans that supported us all season, just to see this place packed, to see Mr. Pollin in the house, to see everybody. It's just starting to feel good again. It really is," Butler said after scoring 11 points and 10 rebounds in his first game back. "It's been a stressful year, so to speak, but it felt real good."

Butler originally planned on coming back on Sunday against Indiana, but said he couldn't miss the return. "This was a special moment, I really wanted to be a part of this and give the fans a glimpse of what next year's possibly gonna look like," Butler said. "We feel whole again. Now we just got to put together a string of wins and give everybody a glimpse of what the future's gonna look like in Washington."

And that future revolves around Arenas. To "get Gilbert back shows some good fortune is coming around," Antawn Jamison said after scoring a team-high 21 points.

By Michael Lee |  March 28, 2009; 11:23 PM ET
Previous: Detroit Pistons (34-37) at Washington Wizards (17-56) | Next: Instant Analysis On Arenas

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With Ivan gone, I was wondering how Michael Lee was going to fill Ivan's shoes.

Looks like Michael filled them by wearing Gilby's adidas zeros, jersey, hat, and cheered his head off at the game.

Wonderful.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | March 28, 2009 11:54 PM

Didn't see the game. How was GA on the defensive end?

Posted by: glawrence007 | March 29, 2009 12:15 AM

How?

When Stuckey started blowing by him, as Gilby backpedaled several times, including flopping, ETap eventually resorted to a zone D.

Nothing more needed to be said than that.

If you check comcast right now, they are replaying the game.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | March 29, 2009 12:19 AM

It is appropriate to be a cheerleader tonight. The Phone Booth was electric, and this is a different Wizards team with Gil on the floor. Those first 4 minutes was about the best the Wiz have looked all year.

Welcome back Gilbert!

Posted by: rbelleisle | March 29, 2009 12:38 AM

"It is appropriate to be a cheerleader tonight. The Phone Booth was electric, and this is a different Wizards team with Gil on the floor. Those first 4 minutes was about the best the Wiz have looked all year.

Welcome back Gilbert!

Posted by: rbelleisle | March 29, 2009 12:38 AM "

I thought beat reporters weren't supposed to interject with personal feelings and observations?

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | March 29, 2009 12:46 AM

I saw those first few minutes and am hoping that is how the team will be like next year. Welcome back Arenas!

Posted by: rickgonz | March 29, 2009 5:09 AM

Like I said earlier, I'm not exactly sure why Arenas played tonight. But it was a pretty good test, against one of the few really good defensive clubs in the NBA. Detroit likes to beat Washington, or at least Rip Hamilton and Kwame Brown do, and both of them played pretty well.

The Wiz could have, should have, won the game. That's not the important thing. It's that for once the Wiz looked a little like a playoff club that made a bunch of errors, instead of a bottom-feeder playing above their heads.

We'll see how they do against the Cavs. LeBron will no doubt want to show Gilbert who's boss. Against Cleveland, they'll have to play some defense.

Posted by: Samson151 | March 29, 2009 6:26 AM

And with the return of Gilbert brings the return of "his hater".

Posted by: CBell29 | March 29, 2009 7:33 AM

Gilbert Arenas remains on schedule to make his debut Saturday night against Detroit and will likely start, according to interim coach Ed Tapscott. Tapscott didn't say how many minutes he'll play Arenas but did say it wouldn't be anything outlandish like in the 36- to 38-minute range. The word he used was "intelligent."

Instead ETaps played him 29 minutes? The extra 6 minutes would have made it unintelligent?

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | March 29, 2009 10:14 AM

Arenas has a flare for the dramatic, so it was only fitting that he had an opportunity to decide the game in the closing seconds. But it was obvious that he hasn't played an NBA game in more than 11 months, because even he questioned his decision-making on that final, futile shot.

Are you kidding he never makes good decisions when taking shots.

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | March 29, 2009 10:16 AM

I see the Arenas haters are out in force. You all ought to move to Cleveland. Or better yet, Sacramento.

Posted by: pjkiger1 | March 29, 2009 10:30 AM

"Like I said earlier, I'm not exactly sure why Arenas played tonight. But it was a pretty good test, against one of the few really good defensive clubs in the NBA. Detroit likes to beat Washington, or at least Rip Hamilton and Kwame Brown do, and both of them played pretty well.

The Wiz could have, should have, won the game. That's not the important thing. It's that for once the Wiz looked a little like a playoff club that made a bunch of errors, instead of a bottom-feeder playing above their heads.

Posted by: Samson151 | March 29, 2009 6:26 AM "

Les BouleS should have won the game since both AI and Rasheed were on the bench.

3 all stars starting this game vs. 1 all star starting this game (Rip)

Then again, the all star game is a popularity contest.

Also, the Detroit of today is not like the Detroit of the past with regard to them being one of the top defensive teams. Currently, they are ranked #18 in the league.

http://www.nba.com/statistics/sortable_team_statistics/sortable2.html?cnf=1&prd=1

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | March 29, 2009 10:53 AM

The Big Three on the floor together after such a long time...it just feels great to write that. I am a GA fan and proud of it! The haters....shut up! Believe me, there are plenty of other teams to cheer for. It just reminds me of all the Dallas Cowboy fans here in DC, who have never even been to Dallas before, and have the nerve to beat the Redskins down! And yes, I am a loyal Redskins fan! Wizards and Redskins haters......shut up and get a life!

Posted by: alr47 | March 29, 2009 11:06 AM

"The Big Three on the floor together after such a long time...it just feels great to write that. I am a GA fan and proud of it! The haters....shut up! Believe me, there are plenty of other teams to cheer for. It just reminds me of all the Dallas Cowboy fans here in DC, who have never even been to Dallas before, and have the nerve to beat the Redskins down! And yes, I am a loyal Redskins fan! Wizards and Redskins haters......shut up and get a life!

Posted by: alr47 | March 29, 2009 11:06 AM "

All you "fans" who are incapable of grasping reality, but instead, enjoy your local team spending big bucks on people who don't deserve it and 3 consecutive seasons of one and done and another lottery season coming up as the worst team in the league need to shut up and get a life.

You all should want better for your team as opposed to the current cast of clowns running the court and the front office and ownership.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | March 29, 2009 11:10 AM

I wish people would lighten up with the "hater" labels back and forth. We're all frustrated by the team this year, and I've been critical of certain players. I certainly don't hate anyone when I criticize the GM, coaching or players.

Anyway...good to see Gilbert back. As much as I've taken issue with his lousy D and big contract, clearly his the emotional leader of this team. Will be fascinating to see who they hire to coach these guys, because with Gil this will always be an offense-first, ran and gun team.

Posted by: jweber1 | March 29, 2009 11:32 AM

You all should want better for your team as opposed to the current cast of clowns running the court and the front office and ownership.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | March 29, 2009 11:10 AM

Clowns? I wouldn't say clowns. More like cursed. Its not their fault. Its something in the dmv water. Mike James said he never broke a bone in his career before and he breaks his pinkie (in freakin practice!!!). Jamison and Stevenson both came to dc with reps as being durable, and now their both fragile (even though they both play through a lot of injuries). If anybody should take the blame it should be The Eddie Jordan for running these guys into the ground. And Tapscott too! Their should be no reason whatsoever that Antawn Jamison should be leading the league in minutes. That's nothing but pure stupidity and stubbornness on the coaching staff that will do anything for a win.

Posted by: CBell29 | March 29, 2009 11:34 AM

"All you "fans" who are incapable of grasping reality, but instead, enjoy your local team spending big bucks on people who don't deserve it and 3 consecutive seasons of one and done and another lottery season coming up as the worst team in the league need to shut up and get a life.You all should want better for your team as opposed to the current cast of clowns running the court and the front office and ownership. Posted by: DC_MAN88"

I guess that we'll all get to see if you're right next year.

But about that shutting up and getting a life part... well, if the shoe fits...

Posted by: Samson151 | March 29, 2009 11:40 AM

cbell29: "Clowns? I wouldn't say clowns. More like cursed. Its not their fault. Its something in the dmv water. Mike James said he never broke a bone in his career before and he breaks his pinkie (in freakin practice!!!). Jamison and Stevenson both came to dc with reps as being durable, and now their both fragile (even though they both play through a lot of injuries). If anybody should take the blame it should be The Eddie Jordan for running these guys into the ground. And Tapscott too! Their should be no reason whatsoever that Antawn Jamison should be leading the league in minutes. That's nothing but pure stupidity and stubbornness on the coaching staff that will do anything for a win."

This is a bit twisty. Is it the The Curse, or the water at dmv, or Jordan longago transgressions, or Tapscott, or Grunfeld or Polin? Will the coaching staff do anything for a win, or have they given up on the season?

That's why I prefer DCMan. With him, it's always the most bilious explanation possible.


Posted by: CBell29

Posted by: Samson151 | March 29, 2009 11:44 AM

Slurp.

Posted by: dabing | March 29, 2009 12:47 PM

I wonder what kind of clowns you gonna' call them, when they start kickin' butts and takin names.'

What kind of clowns you gonna' call them if Abe is serious when he says he's gonna spend the money to win next year.

What kind of clowns you gonna call them when time verifies that Gilbert is really a superstar.

Oh! Oh! Oh! I know. You'll probably be like Kolby and say, 'They just lucky.'

Instead of saying, I AM A STUPID PERSON.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 29, 2009 12:56 PM

"I wonder what kind of clowns you gonna' call them, when they start kickin' butts and takin names.'

What kind of clowns you gonna' call them if Abe is serious when he says he's gonna spend the money to win next year.

What kind of clowns you gonna call them when time verifies that Gilbert is really a superstar.

Oh! Oh! Oh! I know. You'll probably be like Kolby and say, 'They just lucky.'

Instead of saying, I AM A STUPID PERSON.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 29, 2009 12:56 PM "

Sorry, that's something the sane have to see to believe, and based on the past 5 years, the only people who've seen it are those who sniff paint or smoke crack.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | March 29, 2009 5:56 PM

"That's why I prefer DCMan. With him, it's always the most bilious explanation possible.


Posted by: CBell29

Posted by: Samson151 | March 29, 2009 11:44 AM "

The things that happen to Les BouleS are so comical and ridiculous that even Hollywood can't make it up.

Funny, I was in a sporting goods store today and saw the parachute that Gilby used when he tore his knee up. Kinda brought a chuckle to me on how silly that summer comeback debacle turned out.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | March 29, 2009 6:00 PM

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