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News » Wizards soar late in historic matchup

Wizards soar late in historic matchup

Wizards soar late in historic matchup
It was the rarest of NBA meetings Saturday night - two dreadful teams vying to see which could avoid yet another loss.

It was a first, too. No previous NBA game matched teams that had played at least 25 games and had a combined record worse than the Washington Wizards and Oklahoma City Thunder's, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

With Juan Dixon leading a spirited surge at the outset of the fourth quarter, the short-handed Wizards put aside a season's worth of bad feelings to defeat the Thunder 104-95 at Verizon Center, ending their losing streak at eight games.

Dixon scored nine points during a 19-4 run in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that gave his team a 93-82 lead

with 4:59 left, and the Wizards finally avoided relinquishing a lead in the final 12 minutes. Antawn Jamison, helping compensate for the absence of an injured Caron Butler (ankle), led the Wizards with 29 points and five rebounds. Andray Blatche had 19 points and 15 rebounds.

The Wizards were not in a celebratory mood after raising their record to 5-23. They seemed more relieved than anything, knowing a loss at home to the Thunder (3-28) would have been the lowest point yet in a season of lows. They also know what is ahead: back-to-back road dates with the Rockets and Hornets, followed by a visit to Boston and a home game with the Cavaliers.

With that stretch looming, a sense of relief was etched on the face of interim coach Ed Tapscott, who saw his record climb to 4-13.

"It's always good to get a win whether you're on a winning streak or losing streak," he said. "[Oklahoma City] is a young team with significant talent. Young is the operative word."

Dixon finished with 13 points and two steals.

"It's a big win for us," he said. "We finally closed out a game. We still have a shot [at the playoffs]. I believe that."

The back-and-forth affair had all the drama of a summer league game in Las Vegas. The teams played that quality of defense, too. The visitors might as well have been traffic cops on the floor, so often did they seem to be directing the Wizards to the basket. The same could have been said of the Wizards at times.

Nick Young started in place of Butler, who sprained his ankle in Cleveland on Thursday but is expected to return against the Rockets on Monday. It was the Wizards' ninth different starting lineup this season.

But the Wizards found just the tonic in the Thunder, a raw bunch touting the local flavor of Kevin Durant (Montrose Christian School), Jeff Green (Georgetown), Chris Wilcox (Maryland) and Joe Smith (Maryland). Durant and Green combined for 48 points, but that couldn't compensate for the struggles of the defense, which had only seven steals.


The questionable officiating in the Washington Wizards' game in Cleveland on Christmas night doesn't matter from a playoff-position perspective. Call or no call, the Wizards are headed to the lottery this season.

The rest of their season is mostly about bookkeeping, learning which of the young players has a future with the team and finding out which version of Gilbert Arenas the team will get back - the three-time All-Star Arenas or the scaled-down one who never will be what he was after three knee surgeries.

Otherwise, the Wizards were reminded anew in Cleveland that nobody respects a loser.

How else to explain the awarding of three free throws to LeBron James with 1:33 left after replays showed Caron Butler didn't make contact with him? James made all three, and the Cavaliers overcame a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes to win 93-89.

Antawn Jamison also had a beef with two calls late in the game: a questionable charging call against him and a foul he was assessed while defending Anderson Varejao.

The Wizards had seven free throw attempts to the Cavaliers' 25. That disparity was enough to force the team to have the league office review the handiwork of referees Joe DeRosa, Luis Grillo and Courtney Kirkland.

"That process is under way or has been looked into," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "But the outcome is the same. My point is, once a game is in the can, you look at it and learn from it. They are not going to send us back to Cleveland to replay that."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 29, 2008


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