- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

— A night after Eddie Jordan watched his Washington Wizards get undone by All-Star Miami guard Dwyane Wade - a performance that prompted the coach to say his injury-riddled team didn’t have the talent to combat such a scorer, Caron Butler aimed to prove different.

On Wednesday night at Philips Arena, the opposing assailant was Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Bibby, who torched the Wizards in the third quarter and looked to bury them in the fourth.

And Butler did his part, carrying the Wizards with his season-high 32 points. But once again Washington faltered late, giving up three key 3-pointers in a 91-87 loss to drop to 1-8 on the season.

“We did everything right,” said Butler, who in addition to leading all scorers had seven rebounds and three steals. “We executed our offense, guys played great on a back-to-back. We just came up a little short and lost to a good Atlanta Hawks team.”

The Wizards saw a first-half lead evaporate thanks to Bibby’s sizzling third-quarter performance. Bibby scored 15 of his team-best 25 points in the third to lead his team to a 70-67 lead.

Washington, meanwhile, made seven of its 20 shots in the third. Jamison, who scored 14 points in the first half, got only two looks at the basket in the second half and missed both shots.

But Butler then scored 10 fourth-quarter points. Despite his heroics and two clutch baskets down the stretch by Stevenson - the last of which put Washington up 87-83 with 1:05 left - Atlanta remained a threat.

The Hawks keyed their defense on Butler, and the All-Star forward didn’t take a shot the rest of the way. Atlanta made three 3-pointers in the final two minutes, the last of which was a 30-footer by Marvin Williams that lifted Atlanta 89-87 with 26.5 seconds left.

Guard Juan Dixon missed on the Wizards’ ensuing possession. Nick Young scooped up the loose ball and rushed another errant shot with 13 seconds left.

“I didn’t know how much time was left because the play took so long, and we were down there scrapping - I just tried to get a shot off,” Young said. “I thought we had this one. We were up four with a minute left, and then Joe Johnson made a big shot and then Marvin Williams made a big shot. We’ve got to try to get it together right at the end. That’s where we always mess up at. But we’re getting there.”

Atlanta’s Flip Murray snagged the rebound of Young’s miss, and Dixon had no choice but to foul.

Murray made both foul shots, handing the Wizards yet another defeat.

“We didn’t close it out,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “It’s a credit to them that they made some big-time shots, Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. And they played good defense down the stretch - we couldn’t get a clean shot off.”

The Hawks improved to 7-4 in part by dominating on the boards, outrebounding Washington 58-40 despite the absences of center Al Horford and swingman Josh Smith, who both sat with ankle injuries. But Zaza Pachulia ruled the paint for Atlanta, grabbing 18 rebounds. Williams pulled down another 15.

The Wizards opened the game with a different look, as rookie center JaVale McGee and second-year point guard Dee Brown made the first starts of their respective careers.

The speedy Brown made his presence felt immediately, pushing the ball up the court from the start and setting the tone for crisper ball movement and a faster start than in the last eight games. The Wizards opened up a 13-4 lead and had four assists on their first five field goals.

McGee recorded four points and three rebounds in his first eight minutes of action, but he fizzled, finishing with five points and five rebounds.

Washington held a 20-14 lead before Atlanta responded with a 10-2 run to tie the score at 22-22 before seizing a 28-26 lead by the end of the first quarter.

But the Wizards came back in the second quarter. Jamison scored eight points in an 18-7 run that enabled Washington to go up 44-37 with 5:05 left in the quarter and eventually earn a 50-44 lead at halftime.

Playing their best first half of basketball all season, the Wizards took care of the ball and spread it around for 15 assists. And on defense they forced the Hawks into 10 turnovers, scoring 11 points off them.