CHARLOTTE, N.C. | Remember the old Looney Tunes cartoon in which Bugs Bunny crawls out of a hole on a baseball diamond, summons spectacular powers as only Bugs can, plays every position on the field and single-handedly defeats a team of gorilla-looking opponents?
It almost seemed like the Washington Wizards got a similar performance out of Caron Butler Tuesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena. Only in this episode, the Wizards came up short and sank to an all-time low with an 80-72 loss to the host Charlotte Bobcats.
Butler spent portions of the game playing his original position of small forward, his new position of shooting guard and even a little power forward. He scored 31 points, grabbed six rebounds and notched two steals and four assists in 40 minutes.
"You've just got to continue to play hard and try to work us out of this funk," Butler said. "It's tough, but you've got to leave it all out there night in and night out, and that's what I tried to do to lead this team."
But not even Basketball Bugs - er, uh, Butler - could solve all of Washington's woes, which came in the form of a season-low 32.2 percent shooting performance, a season-low scoring output, a 52-41 rebounding disadvantage and only one other double-digit scorer.
That laundry list accumulated into yet another shortcoming by the Wizards and a 4-22 record, which surpasses the 4-21 mark that the 1966 Baltimore Bullets posted for the previous worst start in franchise history.
Antawn Jamison finished with 14 points on 5-for-18 shooting and six rebounds. Emeka Okafor, meanwhile, led Charlotte (10-19) with 29 points and 18 rebounds.
The Wizards sported their eighth different starting lineup of the season in the loss. Shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson (three points in 26 minutes) asked interim coach Ed Tapscott to remove him from the starting lineup in hopes that he would rediscover his shot while coming off the bench, so the Wizards moved Butler to shooting guard and inserted Dominic McGuire at small forward.
McGuire, who started for the first time this season, grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds. He entered the game averaging 2.0 points and 2.9 rebounds in 11.8 minutes a game. The second-year player had steadily earned more playing time since Tapscott took over Nov 24.
The Wizards' new lineup did nothing to help cure the team's reoccurring slow starts. They trailed 11-4 before tying the score at 11-11 with 6:38 left in the first quarter. But Washington's shooting struggles returned, and Charlotte - which shot 62.5 percent in the period - ended the quarter with a 26-18 lead.
Washington didn't fare much better from the field in the second but remained in contention because the Bobcats shot 16.7 percent in the quarter.
Butler, who led Washington with nine first-quarter points, scored eight points in the second, and the Wizards forced a 36-36 tie at halftime.
The Wizards tied the score four times in the third and remained within a basket when the quarter ended with Charlotte up 55-53.
Washington took a 60-59 lead with 9:54 left to play. The lead was short-lived, but Butler kept the Wizards in the game with a pair of foul shots to cut Charlotte's lead to 70-69 with a little less than four minutes left. But then the Bobcats sealed the win with a 10-0 run.
"We had our opportunities to get it going, but we never took full advantage of it, and that's the tough part," said point guard Mike James, who had nine points on 4-for-16 shooting. "We had chances, but the ball wouldn't go in the hole for myself or [Jamison]. Caron had a great game tonight, but he didn't have no one helping him out there. We're finding different ways to lose games."
By Elaine Donnelly
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