WASHINGTON – Gilbert Arenas emerged in a big blue boxer’s robe, the hood pulled low over his face, during pregame ceremonies at the Washington Wizards’ home opener. Then, doing what he always seems to do, he followed a terrible game with a knockout performance.

Three days after scoring only seven points on 2-for-12 shooting in a season-opening loss at Cleveland, Arenas put up 44 and went 14-for-25 Saturday night, leading the Wizards to a 124-117 victory over the turnover-prone Boston Celtics.

Arenas scored 16 in the third quarter, when the Wizards pulled away to take their first double-digit lead. The Wizards’ “Big Three” of Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison accounted for 34 of Washington’s 40 points in the period.

The Celtics rallied to pull within five in the fourth quarter on Sebastian Telfair’s 3-pointer with 1:06 to play, but that was Boston’s last field goal. Butler answered with a fadeaway in the paint, and the Wizards made three free throws in the final minute to seal the win.

Jamison finished with 29 points, Butler had 20, and the Wizards overcame their persistent defensive and rebounding woes by shooting 52 percent from the field.

Arenas finished fourth in the league in scoring last year, and he was hard to keep down two games in a row. He was held under 20 points only 14 times, then averaged 33.1 in the following games. He was held to single digits only once – and followed that with a 37-point game. Wally Szczerbiak, who missed much of the first half after getting cut over his right eye, returned with a bandage on his brow and scored 33 points to lead the Celtics, who are 0-3 for the first time since 1994.

Szczerbiak single-handedly kept Boston in the game, scoring 10 of his team’s last 14 points in the first half and 10 of its first 11 in the second half.

Telfair, who struggled in Boston’s first two games, scored 24 points. Paul Pierce added 23, but 13 of those came in the first quarter.

The Celtics shot well from the field (53 percent) and rebounded well (43-28 advantage), but they were undone by 23 turnovers that led to 29 Wizards points. Boston committed seven turnovers in the pivotal third quarter, when the Wizards had none.

Bobcats 92, Cavaliers 88

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Raymond Felton scored 23 points Saturday night to lead the Charlotte Bobcats to a 92-88 victory over Cleveland, their first win over the Cavaliers in eight tries. Cleveland owned the Bobcats the past two seasons behind LeBron James, who averaged 34 points over the last three meetings and seemingly scored at will against the young franchise.

Pacers 109, Knicks 95

NEW YORK – Al Harrington snapped out of an early slump with 32 points, and the Indiana Pacers sent the New York Knicks to their fifth straight home-opening loss with a 109-95 victory Saturday night.

Taking advantage of New York’s poor defensive effort, Harrington shot 14-of-24 from the field.

Pistons 95, Grizzlies 86

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Richard Hamilton had 24 points and five players scored in double figures to help the Detroit Pistons beat the Memphis Grizzlies 95-86 Saturday night.

Rasheed Wallace added 15 points, Nazr Mohammed and Jason Maxiell finished with 13 apiece and Tayshaun Prince scored 12 for the Pistons (2-1), who had to put together a fourth-quarter surge to close out the victory.

Bucks 104, Kings 91

MILWAUKEE – Michael Redd scored 26 points, Charlie Villanueva had 25 and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Sacramento Kings 104-91 in their home opener Saturday night.


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