Jefferson secures win with late free throws

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Hustling for rebounds, helping out on defense and getting another big effort from Richard Jefferson has the New Jersey Nets off to their best start in five years.

Jefferson scored 25 points and grabbed an offensive rebound to set up his two game-winning free throws with 24 seconds to play as the Nets rallied from a 20-point first-half deficit for an 87-85 victory over the winless Washington Wizards on Thursday night.

After blowing a six-point lead over the final 1:53, the Nets made two big plays to send Washington to its fourth straight loss.

Jefferson made the first, grabbing the rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Vince Carter.

"Your eyes get real big sometimes when it's a tied game and someone takes a shot," Jefferson said. "A lot of times people turn around and look at the ball. No one boxed me out and I had a free run at it and the ball bounced perfectly to me."

Once Jefferson had the ball, he was fouled by Antonio Daniels. That was money for the Nets. Jefferson made both free throws, finishing a 12-for-12 night and making him 46-of-47 for the season, including 21 in a row.

The Nets' fourth victory in five games wasn't secured until Antoine Wright forced Gilbert Arenas to the corner in the waning seconds, and Carter deflected his off-balance shot.

"I got a finger or two on it," said Carter, who had 24 points, including 12-of-14 from the line. "I wanted to let Antoine know I was there and I just tried to contest it and make it as tough a shot as possible. He is still capable of hitting shots like that."

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan had no problem with Arenas going for the win, since he came up big so often last season.

"He said, 'Let's win it,' and we tried to win it," Jordan said.

The Nets made things tough on Arenas by switching to a zone for the final play.

"I should have stayed straight up going toward the basket instead of going right," said Arenas, who had 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting. "Once I went right, there was no time left and Vince jumped pretty quick. ... It was just a bad shot on my part."

Arenas, who is coming off knee surgery, has struggled with his shooting this season. He is 27-of-76 from the field (35.5 percent).

Bostjan Nachbar had 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, when the Nets shot 65 percent.

Antawn Jamison had 24 points and nine rebounds for Washington, while Caron Butler added 21 points.

The 0-4 start is the first for Washington since 1992-93.

"It's embarrassing to start off 0-4. Last year, we started off 4-0," Arenas said. "We got off to a good run tonight from the start and we hadn't seen that all year. We'll get better."

Trailing 85-79 with 1:53 to play, the Wizards tied the game with two defensive stops and six free throws, the last two by Butler with 39 seconds left.

The Nets then made the plays to win.

Jefferson hit a 3-pointer and converted a three-point play in an 8-0 run that gave New Jersey an 85-79 lead with 1:53 to play.

Over the next 74 seconds, Butler hit four free throws and Arenas made two to tie the game.

Coming into the game there was some question whether Arenas would play after getting fluid drained from his left knee.

Not only did he start, Arenas hit his first three shots, including two 3-pointers to spark a 16-2 spurt. The Wizards' lead was 12 points at the end of the quarter and it ballooned to 37-17 5 minutes into the second when Jamison hit consecutive baskets.

The Nets called a timeout and switched to a zone. It worked perfectly as New Jersey finished the half on a 19-4 spurt to close the gap to 41-36. Carter had seven points in the burst and Jefferson five.

Game notes
Butler tied his career high with seven steals. ... After averaging 18.3 offensive rebounds in its first three games, Washington had eight, including none in the first half. ... Jefferson has 6,778 points as a Nets, moving into fifth place all-time ahead of Chris Morris (6,762). ... Washington has lost six straight overall to the Nets and 13 of 14 in New Jersey. ... Backup Nets C Jamaal Magloire had a season-high 12 rebounds.