MILWAUKEE — There was a moment in the first quarter Friday night when the Washington Wizards actually looked like they might make a game of it on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks, until the bizarre and unexplainable happened.
Wizards reserve guard Roger Mason Jr. was declared ineligible for the game, the Wizards received a technical foul and a downhill slide began from which the Wizards did not recover.
Washington lost the game 102-81 and fell to 0-3.
The Mason debacle was a series of errors that started at the league office and trickled down from there, until it made its way onto the floor at Bradley Center. The league had a Wizards' roster without Mason's name on it. The Bucks' staff passed the roster onto the Wizards' staff, who signed off on it before the game, not noticing the omission.
Before the error was discovered, Mason was allowed to check into the game and scored two points, but then was escorted to the locker room. The points Mason scored were credited to Rashard Lewis.
"It's my fault," coach Flip Saunders said. "The league sends us the list, and what we do is circle the guys that are active and for some reason on our list Roger wasn't on it, and I didn't notice it. So, I take responsibility for that.
"I guess the only fortunate thing is, it wasn't a situation that cost us down the stretch. He hit a big shot, cut it to five when we were struggling a little bit. I thought he would've given us some help. I guess that was unfortunate."
The Wizards managed to regroup early in the second half and closed the 26-point gap to nine, before the Bucks pulled away late in the fourth.
"Bottom line is, we've got to figure it out, and we've got to figure it out quick," Saunders said. "We can't have it where some guys go out and compete or where some guys are out there not playing well. [It] takes away their energy defensively. That's really whats happening right now."
Point guard John Wall had another difficult night, going 1-for-9 for nine points and adding seven assists and four turnovers.
"I'm very disappointed," Wall said. "We lost two close ones. I think we could have won these two games, against the Nets and definitely the Bucks. We just didn't bring the energy.
"You're losing the close games you should win. No way we make the playoffs if you're not winning the close, tough games against teams like this."
In yet another bit of bizarre role-reversal, guard Nick Young had a dreadful night from the floor, going 1-for-10 and scoring just three points in his return to the starting lineup, while Jordan Crawford came off the bench to lead all scorers with 24 points on 9 of 20 shooting.
As the Bucks began to pull away in the fourth, Mason sat in the locker room watching.
"I was looking forward to making a contribution to our team," Mason said. "I was pinching myself to see if it was a joke. Obviously, it wasn't. I really wanted to play tonight, and I wasn't able to, so I just told them [his teammates] to never take anything for granted."
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