WASHINGTON (AP) – Caron Butler made the go-ahead basket, a 16-footer from the baseline with 46 seconds remaining, Gilbert Arenas scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, and the Wizards kept up their high-scoring ways with a 112-111 victory over the Orlando Magic, putting Washington alone atop the Southeast Division.

Washington has won a season-high five straight and has made up a six-game deficit to the Magic since the start of December. The Wizards have scored 106 or more points in 13 straight games, more than compensating for the fact that they’re last in the league in scoring defense. They haven’t been in first place this late since the 1978-79 season.

Dwight Howard, Keyon Dooling and Hedo Turkoglu scored 20 points apiece for the Magic, who have lost four straight and seven of nine. Dooling missed a tough, running 15-footer at the buzzer.

Arenas has scored 30-plus in all five wins, and his fourth-quarter performance was stellar. He accelerated through the paint for a layup, used his strength to set up a three-point play by bouncing off Turkoglu and made outside jumpers.

Nearly every one of Arenas’ points was needed because the Magic kept the game close. Jameer Nelson drove through the lane to give Orlando a 108-107 lead with 2:24 to play. Antawn Jamison made one of two free throws to tie the game with 1:48 left, setting up a tense conclusion.

Howard missed a hook shot in traffic. Arenas missed a wild runner. Dooling missed a 3-pointer. Butler came through with his basket from the baseline, then contested Turkoglu’s missed jumper at the other end. Jamison made two free throws to get the lead to four with 13 seconds left, and Dooling made a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left.

That should have been it, but it wasn’t. Butler, an 88.3 percent free-throw shooter entering the game, missed two with 2.8 seconds left, giving the Magic one last chance, but Dooling’s desperation shot banked off the glass to end the game.

Jamison scored 25 points and had 11 rebounds for the Wizards. Butler finished with 20 points.

AP-ES-12-29-06 2148EST


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