- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

You do not want a player working on his second 10-day contract shooting the game-tying shot in the closing seconds.

You want Gilbert Arenas to take that shot. Or you want Juan Dixon to take it, or Larry Hughes, although Hughes probably would have missed it because he missed nearly all his field goal attempts yesterday, the fact of playing with only one good arm.

You do not want Damone Brown to take the shot, and nothing against this survivor of the National Basketball Development League.

The fairy tale of the ex-minor leaguer hitting a big shot during a playoff chase only happens in the movies, and only then if Denzel Washington is granted 100 takes to sink the 3-pointer.

Brown undoubtedly was feeling good, if not overly confident, for he launched the shot after catching the ball with 3.5 seconds left. There was more than enough time to make a pass or dribble closer to the 3-point line. But Brown forgot who he was. He caught the ball and fired away from several feet behind the 3-point line.

He missed, and that was that, one last curious development in this root canal-like affair that ended with the Pacers 79, Wizards 76.

Coach Eddie Jordan said the play was designed with several options during the preceding timeout, with Brown instructed to make a pass to either Arenas or Dixon or, if neither player was open, to take the shot himself.

This is not to second-guess Jordan. As a coach, you draw up a play in the huddle and then have to trust your players to make the right decisions. Brown did not make the right decision — appeared not to be thinking pass at all — and so he probably will not be placed in that position again.

The Wizards are in the elementary pursuit of securing homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. By losing to the Pacers, the Wizards allowed the Bulls to pull into a fourth-place tie with them in the Eastern Conference. The benefit of homecourt advantage cannot be minimized, especially for the Wizards, a young team that is going where it has never been.

At this point in the season, you go with those who have led you to the edge of so much promise, in this case Arenas or the one-armed Hughes. And you play Hughes if he is down to no arms and no legs because you check the box score after the game and notice the 7-for-23 shooting line next to Stephen Jackson, the scorer who spent much of the afternoon trying to free himself from Hughes.

Arenas and Hughes have hit a number of game-saving shots this season, as has the injured Antawn Jamison. This is not to say Arenas would have hit the 3-pointer. This is about percentages. This is about the hierarchy within a team. This is about trudging off the floor knowing you have emptied your best chamber, win or lose.

Basketball 101 from the ‘90s: Luc Longley did not take the last shot of a game unless it was off an offensive rebound. Michael Jordan took that shot or set up a teammate after drawing double-team attention.

Brown took the shot, which only made the loss harder to swallow. The Wizards played with little energy in the first half of a 29-29 eyesore, perhaps because of the 1 p.m. tip-off or because they were playing their 13th game in 22 days, a stretch that included stops in nine cities.

The Wizards seemingly wrested control of the exercise in the third quarter, pushing their lead to 13 points at one point. Yet no lead is ever safe with the Wizards, whatever the psychology of that is.

“They made the plays down the stretch, and we didn’t,” Jordan said. “They made 3s, and we didn’t.”

As lackluster as the Wizards were, they still were in position to push the game into overtime with 3.5 seconds left.

Brown must not have heard the pleading voices in the den on Fun Street.

No. No. No.

A thousand times no.

Clank.

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