- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | After the Los Angeles Lakers traded him to the Charlotte Bobcats over the weekend, forward Vladimir Radmanovic criticized his former coach, Phil Jackson, for not using his role players effectively.

But unfortunately for the Washington Wizards, Radmanovic’s new coach, Larry Brown, appears to have a good grasp on how to use the 6-foot-10 forward. And just when Washington appeared to be on the verge of overtaking Charlotte on Wednesday, the newest Bobcats player squashed their hopes and sparked his team to a 101-89 victory at Time Warner Cable Arena.

The Wizards are 0-12 against Southeast Division opponents this season.

The Wizards came back from an 11-point deficit to pull within three points midway through the third quarter. But Radmanovic - who had only two points in the first 2 1/2 quarters of play - torched Washington for 19 points, including five 3-pointers.

Radmanovic finished with 21 points. But while his performance was impressive, the Wizards had themselves to blame - most of the baskets resulted from wide-open looks thanks to a backfiring defensive strategy.

“We decided to get aggressive and double-team the ball, and we’re looking for steals and turnovers then,” coach Ed Tapscott said. “If they beat your interceptors and they rotate the ball, there’s going to be somebody open. And they had a good scheme. They put a very good shooter in the corner. The ball rotated, swing, swing, swing, rhythm jump shot, and that’s a very good shooter.

“We knew what the risk was, we couldn’t sit back. … So, in that case, good defensive scheme, better offensive scheme. … Vladimir’s a very good shooter - I doff my hat to them.”

Caron Butler led the losing effort with 26 points and six assists. Antawn Jamison added 23 points and nine rebounds, but no other Wizards player scored more than eight points.

Meanwhile, rookie point guard D.J. Augustin led Charlotte with 24 points, five rebounds and four assists. Radmanovic joined three other players scored in double digits for the 21-31 Bobcats, who improved to 3-0 against the Wizards this season.

After taking an early 7-6 lead, the Wizards again fell prey to poor shot selection and poor ballhandling. They missed six of their next eight shots - all but one of them being jump shots - and turned the ball over four times to fall behind 18-11 with 5:25 left in the first.

The deficit grew to 34-23 in the second quarter before the Wizards mustered a surge that pulled them within four. But then came the relapse, and Charlotte used a 12-2 run to take a 49-37 lead with four minutes left in the half.

The second half featured a familiar theme for the Wizards. Down 60-49 early in the third quarter, Washington went on a run courtesy of 3-pointers from Mike James and Dominic McGuire and a pair of free throws from Butler. McGuire capped the 10-2 charge by pulling down a defensive rebound and going coast to coast for a layup that cut the deficit to 62-59 with 8:43 left in the third.

But continuing a trend this season, the Wizards had no player capable of sustaining that level of play. Radmanovic knocked down a 3-pointer to quiet the Wizards and ignite another Bobcats scoring spree. In a 4:10 span, Charlotte outscored Washington 12-0 to build a 74-59 cushion. And it wasn’t until Butler went 2-for-2 at the line with 2:40 left that the Wizards ended the drought.

From that point on, the Wizards never got any closer than eight points.

The Wizards stagger into the All-Star break with a 11-42 record.

“I need a little break,” Jamison said. “Refresh the batteries for the second half of the season, get refocused, positive energy. It’s been tough.”

Note - A night after Darius Songaila suffered a bruised elbow in the second quarter and was out for the remainder of that loss, the Wake Forest product was back in the lineup and started at center. He played just under 29 minutes and recorded six points and four rebounds.

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