As time expired, though, and his 3-point jumper over Deron Williams from 25 feet out fell with ease, Gilbert Arenas was in.
The two-time All-Star guard had seen to it not only that Washington had beaten the Jazz 114-111 Monday afternoon, but also that he had passed the initiation test, finishing with 51 points to join Michael Redd, Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen in the ever-growing fraternity of perimeter players who have dropped 50-plus on coach Jerry Sloan's club this season.
In extending 24-14 Utah's longest losing streak of the season to four as it opened a four-game Eastern road swing, Arenas also posted his seventh game of the season with 40 or more points and rendered moot center Mehmet Okur's career-high 38 points.
All that came despite the Jazz's best efforts to ensure otherwise, even on a game-winning play drawn with only one plan in mind getting to the ball to Arenas to do with it as he wished during a timeout with 11 seconds remaining.
"We played great defense on him," said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, whose follow layup off a badly air-balled Derek Fisher 3-point attempt had tied the game at 111. "We made him use the entire clock, and we put a hand in his face. We did not let him get by us."
That the clock wound down its final second as Arenas' winner brushed net, however, was in reality a function solely of the Wizard guards' desire to finish off the Jazz in style.
"I knew the shot was going in," said Arenas, a 2001 second-round draft choice who has now scored 40-plus 26 times in his six-season all-with-the-Wizards career. "I was on fire the last three minutes of the game, so there was no point of going in and trying to create two points."
With the Jazz up 99-98, Arenas indeed scored 14 of Washington's final 18 points and won a shootout with Okur, who canned two 3-pointers down the stretch.
The last three of Okur's 38 points five more than his previous career best put Utah up 109-106. Arenas answered, though, by going up for a 3-pointer and coming down on Fisher's hip, drawing a foul that resulted in three points from the free-throw line.
The Jazz's next possession went awry with just under a minute to go, ending with Williams coming up short on a trey.
"I thought (Okur) had the shot, but he dumped it down to Matt (Harpring), and Matt really didn't have anywhere to go," Williams said. "I was about to get back on defense, (but) then Matt kicked it out and I had to step in and shoot. (A Wizards' defender) came and put a hand up. I don't know if he tipped it, (but) I tried to get it up a little higher and ... I put too much arc on it."
That allowed now 21-16 Washington to go up 111-109 when Arenas tapped the rebound of his own failed layup to Brendan Haywood, whose inside bucket fell with 24.9 seconds left.
After Boozer tied it back up at 111, Arenas who is averaging 30.2 points, second among NBA scoring leaders only to the 31.6 of Denver's Carmelo Anthony went right back to work.
He wound up with only Williams on him, not that Sloan did not weigh other options.
Some were dismissed out of hand.
"Andrei (Kirilenko) guarded him in the first part of the ballgame ... and he didn't have very good success with it," Sloan said. "I didn't have a good feeling about trying to put him on there again."
Others perhaps should have been pondered longer.
"I considered a lot of things," the Jazz coach said when asked if he thought about double-teaming Arenas. "Probably should have done that."
"We could have doubled him and gotten it out of his hands," Williams added. "But that's about it."
Especially with Arenas so comfortable with the ball.
"We just didn't seem to have much of an answer for him," Sloan said. "He was sensational. ... He made the shot that he had to make. He waited it out and stuck it in the basket."
But not before adding to the drama by toying with Williams at the top of the key.
"I looked up with four seconds," the Jazz point said. "He was still messing with the ball. So I tried to get up on him a little more. He made a little move, a little step. I backed up a little bit, and that's when he raised up. I just tried to get a hand up.
"That's all I could really do, man," Williams said. "Everybody in the arena knew he was going to shoot it. We knew it."
So, too, did Arenas, who didn't for a second think anyone was coming to help Williams.
"Double-teaming on defense is not Utah's style," he said. "They are a man-to-man, one-on-one coverage team."
There was, however, something Arenas did expect.
That clearly was for the ball to drop, as if it were ushering in a new year, sans only the ticker-tape confetti.
Arenas, in fact, turned toward the Jazz's end of the floor and raised both of his arms 3-point style even before Williams could turn to watch the damage.
"It had great arc, and it was lined up with the rim," Arenas said, "so I started celebrating pre-make. I put my hands up because I knew the game was over."
And he knew he was in the club, with no more than the nick of time he chose to spare.
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