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
Instead, Arenas asked for a quick inbounds pass from Antawn
Jamison and fired a desperation heave from about 70 feet. It was
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
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."