- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

MEMPHIS, Tenn. | Three-tenths of a second. That’s how long the Washington Wizards needed to hang on to complete a fourth-quarter rally and defeat the Memphis Grizzlies.

But after rallying from a double-digit deficit midway through the fourth quarter, the Wizards again demonstrated their inability to close. They put Zach Randolph on the line for a pair of free throws to force overtime, fell flat in the extra session and suffered a 116-111 loss to the Grizzlies on Monday night at FedEx Forum.

Thirty points from Gilbert Arenas and 24 apiece from Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler weren’t enough to save the Wizards, who got hammered on the boards 54-41 and allowed four Memphis players to top the 20-point mark.

The Grizzlies (14-16) improved to 6-0 at home when facing teams with sub-.500 records.

The Wizards, who were outscored 14-9 in overtime, had a chance to tie the score with less than 10 seconds left. With Memphis up 113-111, Arenas poked the ball from Marc Gasol’s grasp during a scrum, and Randy Foye scooped it up and raced up court. But just as he reached halfcourt, a whistle was blown, and the officials said Jamison had fouled Gasol to cause the loose ball. Gasol made both shots to extend his team’s lead to 115-111, and O.J. Mayo added another foul shot with 2.5 seconds left to clinch the victory.

“We just can’t get over the hump,” Arenas said. “We gave better effort today, but they got the calls they needed down the line and in overtime, and we just couldn’t get a break.”

The Wizards, who lost their fifth straight in Memphis, traded leads with the Grizzlies nine times in the first quarter before Memphis went up by three. But Arenas came back and buried a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to force a 23-23 tie heading into the second quarter.

The Wizards took a 51-50 lead into halftime after another back-and-forth second quarter. And the Wizards’ starters shot a combined 60 percent from the field in the half, which helped offset a 26-16 rebounding disadvantage.

Meanwhile, Mike Conley - after going 2-for-10 from the field in his last outing - led Memphis’ first-half attack with 12 points. Mayo took over in the third quarter with 12 points.

Although they struggled to defend, allowing the Grizzlies to shoot 59 percent from the field in the third, the Wizards remained in the game thanks to a balanced effort from Arenas, Butler and Jamison. Jamison had 10 points - including two 3-pointers - while Arenas added eight points and Butler six as their team entered the fourth quarter down 81-80.

Memphis led 92-82 with seven minutes left in the game, but the Wizards orchestrated a 12-2 run that tied the score at 94-94 with 3:26 left. But DeMarre Carroll was left open along the right wing and knocked down a jumper to halt Washington’s run.

With 30.8 seconds left, Brendan Haywood got fouled trying to go up for a putback and made one free throw to tie the score at 100-100.

Butler’s two free throws with 9.4 seconds left gave Washington a 102-100 lead.

But Haywood fouled Randolph in the paint on the opposite end, and the forward calmly knocked down both shots from the charity stripe. The Wizards couldn’t bounce back from that point on and lost their second straight game.

“That one stings, right there,” said Foye, who had 11 points and three assists. “Up by two with five seconds left and we stopped the initial play, then Randolph gets a play going to the basket and gets fouled. This one stings. It’s going to be hard to swallow.”