Fighting to hang onto the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards would have preferred to begin a crucial five-game homestand with a win last night against the Charlotte Bobcats.
But instead, the Bobcats took advantage of a slow start by the short-handed Wizards and then held off a late charge to earn a 100-97 victory at Verizon Center.
The Wizards, playing less than 24 hours after outlasting the Raptors 110-106 in overtime in Toronto, appeared spent, putting up flat shots and struggling to contain Charlotte’s Jason Richardson and Matt Carroll.
Richardson torched the Wizards for 34 points on 13-for-20 shooting, and Carroll, who entered the game averaging 8.7 points, finished with 23, including six 3-pointers.
Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 30 points and 10 rebounds and Antonio Daniels and DeShawn Stevenson added 14 and 11 points, respectively — most of them late in the game. But Washington failed for the second time in the week to reach the .500 mark and fell to 30-32.
Charlotte (24-39) raced out to a 35-21 lead after shooting 70 percent from the field in the first quarter (77.8 percent from 3-point range).
Richardson fueled the hot start, scoring 16 points in the quarter while making four of five 3-point attempts. Carroll hit all three of his attempts from 3-point range.
“We had a poor start in the first quarter,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “You can’t let them get 30-something points. We just didn’t recover from that. I’m happy about some of our bench guys coming and helping us. But overall, we just didn’t have the athleticism and the energy to come back from that quarter.”
The Wizards, who defeated the Bobcats in each of their three previous meetings this season, clawed their way back into the game thanks to a boost from their reserves.
Roger Mason Jr. — who finished with 15 points — scored eight straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, and Nick Young (11 points) hit pull-up jumpers on consecutive trips down the court, cutting the lead to 44-34. Charlotte coach Sam Vincent called a timeout with his team in the middle of a 0-for-7 drought. But the Wizards starters re-entered the game and maintained the momentum, pulling within 46-42 with 4:04 left in the half.
The Bobcats rediscovered their shooting touch, however, and took a 54-47 lead at halftime and extended their lead to 80-70 after three quarters.
Finally, down 89-77 with just more than three minutes to play, the Wizards capitalized on another Charlotte cold spell, which saw the Bobcats miss four shots and two free throws.
Daniels drove the lane for a dunk to start the surge, Stevenson made a long 3-pointer and Jamison scored on a put-back to cut the lead to 89-84.
Charlotte regained an eight-point lead, but Washington answered with a 7-3 run to make the score 94-91. The Wizards had to foul to stop the clock and Earl Boykins knocked down both free throws.
With 14.8 seconds left, Jamison’s 3-pointer pulled Washington within 96-94. Another foul followed, and Richardson hit the second of two attempts to put his team up by three.