LeBron dashes Arenas' hopes to be 'Mr. Game 5'
WASHINGTON -- Two game-winning shots by LeBron James in less than a week would be enough to douse any team's spirit.
For Gilbert Arenas, it ruined a chance at a catchy nickname.
"I was going to call myself 'Mr. Game 5,"' Arenas said.
Arenas hit a 14-foot jumper to win a Game 5 on the road a year ago, a key victory that propelled the Washington Wizards to a first-round series victory over the Chicago Bulls. He was hoping -- no, he expected -- to strike again Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, to the point that he was needling former teammate Larry Hughes, calling out "Five! Five!" as the players guarded each other in the overtime thriller.
As it turned out, James had the last word. Arenas made two free throws to give the Wizards a one-point lead with 3.6 seconds to go, but James' tiptoe baseline drive won the game with less than a second to play, giving a 3-2 series lead to a franchise that hasn't been to the second round in 13 years.
"We could have had this series 4-1, when you look at it," Arenas said. "That's two game-winners that's been hit, but that's what happens. It's been a good, exciting series. When I think it about, I'm like, 'We're better than them.' We just have to go out and put this team away."
The Wizards aren't done yet, but they need to win Game 6 at home on Friday and Game 7 on the road -- with no LeBron heroics allowed. Rather than be demoralized over another tough loss, Arenas used laughter as his medicine Thursday, acting as part-comedian and all-optimist after a brief team meeting.
First, he recounted his unorthodox decision to visit the Cavaliers' locker room after Wednesday's game. He said he delivered two messages -- good-naturedly, of course.
"You go in there and you tell them, 'We did good tonight,"' Arenas said. "'This is exciting; this is good basketball. Even though y'all won, we played our hearts out, and we'll see y'all when you come down."'
But he didn't stop there. He wanted James and Co. to know that his "Mr. Game 5" plans had been blown to bits.
"I knew somehow I was going to get the last shot," Arenas said. "It worked that way with 3.6 seconds left, and LeBron messed it up, so I had to give him a piece of my mind. 'You messed up my Mr. Game 5. Now I've got to wait all the way until next year to be called Mr. Game 5.' Jerry West has Mr. Clutch. I wanted Mr. Game 5. ... I was going to have T-shirts made, too."
And just how did the Cavaliers react to all this? Arenas said they looked at him as if he was an "idiot."
"Like usual," Arenas said. "Larry Hughes laughing."
Actually, Arenas had one final chance to be Mr. Game 5 on Wednesday, but he made a crucial mistake. James' basket went through the hoop with 0.9 left on the clock. The Wizards could have called timeout and moved the ball to halfcourt to set up the last shot.
Instead, Arenas asked for a quick inbounds pass from Antawn Jamison and fired a desperation heave from about 70 feet. It was nowhere close.
Arenas took the blame for not calling timeout, saying he was caught up in the moment.
"I totally forgot about the timeouts," he said. "That was my call. I told Antawn to give me the ball."
The Wizards-Cavaliers series has been a great showcase for two young stars. James scored 45 points Wednesday night; Arenas had 44. Right now, however, James' buzzer-beaters in Games 3 and 5 are the indisputable highlights.
But, while Arenas is determined to mount a final challenge, James isn't content, either.
"If we can go to Washington and close them out," James said, "that would be one of my biggest basketball thrills."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press