Sacramento, Calif. — Make that six losses decided by a total of 14 points, now.
The Washington Wizards continue to put up good fights, but still can’t come up with the game-closing plays needed to turn this thing around.
This would have been the big win that Gilbert Arenas needed to get his swag back. Sure, it would have been over the Kings and not a playoff team, but still, just being able to build on leading his team on a 20-9 game-closing run and then drive to the basket and win the game for them would have been a huge boost for the player still trying to figure out how to put the Agent back on Zero.
Instead, Arenas talked after the game about how he feels like he is “letting [the Wizards] down right now.”
Arenas and the Wizards had a chance when Caron Butler picked off a pass with 20.7 seconds left and threw down a fastbreak dunk that made it 109-108. Ben Udrih got to the line and made the first shot but missed the second, setting up the Wizards for a game-tying play.
Gil was trying to get open on the inbounds play, but Tyreke Evans was grabbing his shirt and was whistled for a deadball foul. At first Arenas was going to take the foul shot, but he wisely turned to Caron Butler (an 84 percent free throw shooter) and told him to come to the line. Butler made the shot, and then the Wizards got the ball. 110-109, 16.6 seconds left. Heat up the Hibachi. Or not. Gilbert had the ball and tried to cross Evans over, but the rookie poked the ball away from him with 3.4 seconds left. Arenas fouled Evans to prevent a breakaway jam, and the early favorite for Rookie of the Year knocked down both foul shots. With Arenas having fouled out, Butler got his number called and launched a 3-pointer at the horn, but it rimmed in and out for another Wizards loss.
After the game, the frustration in the locker room was evident. Brendan Haywood, who usually always has something to say, said “I have nothing good to say. Leave me alone,” when reporters walked up to him.
Flip Saunders kept his post-game press conference short and sweet.
“Groundhog day,” Flip said. “I told our guys, all we can do is keep on plugging. When you’ve lost the games that we’ve lost, and to fall behind by 11 with six minutes to go, it would’ve been easy for them to say that’s it, but they didn’t. We went to our halfcourt trap, made plays and got back into the game, but we didn’t and that’s frustrating.”
And Butler said, “It’s getting tough. You’ve got to keep chipping away at it, you know? Last year we had so many games that were very lopsided but we hung in there and weathered the storm. Now its a new year but it’s a process. It’s a process of winning. Once we develop a new formula of winning, we’re gonna be rolling. But, it’s tough. You can’t sugar coat it. It’s real tough.”
The story again — aside for missed opportunity in the final seconds — was consistency.
The Wizards came out at a decent pace, but narrowly trailed. Antawn Jamison was on fire early on with 20 first half points. He finished with 30 points and eight rebounds, Gilbert had 33 points, six assists and six rebounds, Brendan Haywood had nine points and 14 rebounds, and Butler had 16 points and seven rebounds.
BUT the rest of the team combined for only 21 points. The Wizards’ rotation is constantly changing so it’s hard for guys to get into a rhythm, but Flip says it’s constantly changing because no one is playing with consistency off the bench and so he keeps trying different combinations.
If the Wizards could have consistently executed instead of slipping into a third-quarter lull that led to the Kings taking a nine-point lead into the fourth, and then expanding it to 11, and later 12, Washington would have won this game.
But … they remain your consistently inconsistent Washington Wizards, and are now 7-16, which is third-worst in the Eastern Conference and fifth-worst in the league. Wow.