Ten months after his last appearance on the Verizon Center court, Gilbert Arenas played the entire fourth quarter on Saturday night logging 25 minutes for the Washington Wizards' in a 107-102 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the game still to be decided, Saunders sat Al Thornton, who led Washington with 23 points, for the final nine minutes. Saunders went with a three-guard lineup of Arenas, Kirk Hinrich and John Wall.
After Hinrich hit a 3-pointer with 3:16 remaining to give Washington a 95-93 lead, the Cavaliers went on a 10-0 run as Thornton sat and Arenas.
"There was a point in the fourth quarter where I should have subbed myself out for Al," said Arenas.
Arenas played his second game in two nights, his first two of the season, and volunteered he was about 10 pounds overweight due to groin and ankle injuries in the last three weeks.
"I'm trying to get my legs under me, and trying to get into shape and still be effective out there," said Arenas.
He scored 13 points in his first regular-season game at home since Jan. 2, but missed nine of his 13 field goal attempts. Wall shot 5 for 14.
While Arenas and Wall struggled, Mo Williams took advantage. He scored 10 of his 28 points in the final four minutes.
After the game, Saunders admitted he erred by not playing Thornton.
"I made a mistake," Saunders told Thornton.
"We got into a little bit of a rhythm with Gil in there," said Saunders. "In hindsight, you wished you had Al back in the game."
"He apologized for it," said Thornton. "He just made a mistake."
In a wild game that featured 16 lead changes and 12 ties, Williams gave Cleveland the lead for good with two free throws with 2:07 to play, making it 97-95. Daniel Gibson, who had 19 points, followed with a 3-pointer with 1:33 to play for a five-point advantage.
Hinrich had 21 for Washington. Wall had 13 points and 10 assists.
Williams got the best of the heralded rookie and led Cleveland to its second road victory in two nights. The Cavaliers won in Philadelphia on Friday night.
"Nothing against him, it doesn't matter who I play, I accept the challenge," said Williams. "He's a talented, young kid. He's only going to get better. And once he does continue to get better, he's going to be hell."
The Wizards, who have lost four of five, had six players in double figures -- all five starters and Arenas.
Arenas, who was suspended the final 50 games of the season for bringing guns into the locker room, missed the first three games with a strained tendon in his right ankle. He scored 18 points in a loss on Friday night in New York.
"He's still Arenas. You feel like at any moment at any time, he can explode on you," said Gibson. "So we just tried to stay focused and stay locked in on him and make sure that we didn't let him get away from us."
Saunders indicated that for the time being, Arenas would begin games on the bench, making it easier to regulate his minutes.
When Arenas entered with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter, he received mild applause from the crowd of 14,422. Even with Wall, the Wizards are certainly not shying away from promoting Arenas, who adorned the cover of the game program.
"I hadn't heard a clap in a long time," said Arenas. "It's been a while."