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Wizards stay out of cellar

- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

The Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings entered Sunday night's game at Verizon Center with last place in the NBA at stake. All that ended up separating the two basement dwellers were a few fractions of an inch and two points.

The Wizards, after getting off to a hot start and then going cold in the third quarter to let the Kings back into the game, suffered a late scare before holding on for a 106-104 victory and saving themselves a sliver of dignity.

After taking a 97-86 lead with 8:04 left on a 3-pointer from Nick Young, Washington went the rest of the game without making a shot from the field - going 0-for-7, with their only points coming from the foul line.

Sacramento, however, went on a 16-9 run to pull within 105-102 when rookie Spencer Hawes knocked down a hook shot with 41.5 seconds left. Antawn Jamison missed a layup for the Wizards, and Sacramento - with point guard Beno Udrih leading the charge - went on the attack again.

With 17.6 seconds left, Udrih drove the lane. Admittedly not realizing his team could afford to give up a layup, Young crashed the paint to provide help defense and left Sacramento's Francisco Garcia open on the perimeter. Garcia caught the pass behind the 3-point arc in front of the Wizards' bench and fired a shot just before Young and Jamison reached him.

The ball swished through the net with 3.8 seconds left, but referee Eli Roe said Garcia's right foot was on the line and called the shot a 2-pointer. The officials reviewed the tape, and the replay confirmed Roe's call, giving the Wizards - up 105-104 at that point - a chance to avoid overtime.

"I never saw his foot, OK? I was looking for the guy who sucked in on the drive to say something to him, which I can't repeat right here," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott later said with a chuckle. "I heard [assistants] Wes Unseld Jr. and Randy Ayers yelling '2-pointer!' So I was thinking about how much time there was and what we needed to run to score on the other end."

Said Garcia: "I always make sure at the end of the game my feet are behind the line, but they were right there. And they know what they were doing, and it was the right call."

Washington guard Mike James got the inbounds pass and made the first of two free throws. Guard Kevin Martin's 3-pointer at the buzzer clanked off the back of the rim.

The Wizards improved to 16-51 despite the absence of Caron Butler, who missed his fourth game in the past two weeks with tightness in his left hamstring.

In beating Sacramento for the second time this season, the Wizards also avoided falling into a tie for last place in the league and dropped the Kings to 14-52. Sacramento departed the District with an 0-26 record against Eastern Conference teams, the longest such streak against nonconference opponents in NBA history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Jamison, who entered the game having played a league-high 2,549 minutes this season, led all scorers with 30 points in 41 minutes while going 12-for-13 from the foul line and pulling down nine rebounds.

Andray Blatche had 16 points and six rebounds, and Dominic McGuire led the team with nine assists and eight rebounds.

Notes: Before the game, Butler said he will undergo an MRI on his left hamstring Monday. Butler, who aggravated the injury in the first half Friday and never returned, and Tapscott said no plans have been made to hold the swingman out of the season's final 16 games. ...

Although Brendan Haywood has been cleared to resume full-contact activities, Tapscott said the center remains far from returning to action. While he is still at his playing weight, he will take a while to get back into game-type conditioning, Tapscott said. Haywood declined comment.