WASHINGTON – Gilbert Arenas scored 40 points in 32 minutes Wednesday night to lead the Washington Wizards to a 117-91 victory over the Indiana Pacers, who played without injured All-Star Jermaine O’Neal.

Arenas was 14-of-20 from the field and 8-of-9 on free throws for the 21st 40-point game of his NBA career – and second in a row at home. He was taken out shortly after making a 3-pointer to put the Wizards ahead 105-72 about a minute into the fourth quarter.

Arenas is averaging 42 points this season in Washington, where the Wizards are 2-0. On the road, though, Arenas is averaging 15.5 points and his team is 0-2.

The Pacers fell to 3-2, with their leading scorer, O’Neal, sidelined by the left ankle he hurt Tuesday against Philadelphia. At one point, as Washington’s lead grew to 36 points, O’Neal covered his eyes with a hand.

Al Harrington scored 23 for the Pacers. David Harrison started for O’Neal and played 18 minutes, with three points and five rebounds.

Antawn Jamison had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, including a nice backdoor pass to Arenas for a dunk in the third quarter. Caron Butler added 12 points and five assists, and DeShawn Stevenson doubled his previous season high with 10 points. Starters accounted for 82 of Washington’s first 86 points; the other four in that stretch came from backup center Brendan Haywood.

Washington’s transition offense was in gear all night thanks to turnovers. Washington entered the game leading the NBA in forcing turnovers and Indiana gave up the ball 25 times, leading to 35 points.

Wearing a bandage near his right eye after getting cut in Washington’s loss at Orlando on Monday, Arenas was impressive throughout, whether he was driving to the basket or making fadeaway 3-pointers.

He scored 24 points by halftime, including a four-point play in the second quarter when he made a 3-pointer while being fouled by Jamaal Tinsley.

Earlier, Arenas made a short jumper to stake the Wizards to a 31-19 lead nine minutes into the game, at which point the opening period already was Washington’s highest-scoring quarter of the season.

The Pacers trimmed their deficit to 44-43 late in the second quarter. But an 18-4 Wizards run – with nine points from Arenas and five in a row from Thomas, helped by a flagrant foul call on Tinsley – put the hosts ahead 62-47 at halftime.

A 12-0 spurt early in the second half ended any suspense.

Notes: Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said there was “no lingering effect, none at all” in the locker room from last week’s fight between Thomas and the player he replaced as the starting center, Brendan Haywood. The episode was first reported by The Washington Post, and Thomas told The Washington Times: “Since the altercation, we’ve had a chance to sit down and express each others’ perspectives peacefully. My conclusion was that as hard as it is to let this go, I am going to try to put this in the past and simply concentrate on what lies ahead.” … Pacers G Sarunas Jasikevicius returned after missing a game with a sore back, scoring five points in 18 minutes.

AP-ES-11-08-06 2137EST



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