As Flip Saunders said in his post-game presser, the Wizards “are inventing ways to lose.” Thursday they came back and tied the score in the fourth quarter, then fell behind by a basket and Arenas blew a chance to tie the game.
Tonight, they actually had a six-point lead (111-105) with 1:22 left. That wasn’t safe. The Pacers cut it to two, and the Wizards still were in a good position, but Arenas stood at the line and bricked both foul shots.
Mike Dunleavy goes and gets a call — yes, it was controversal, but the officials looked at the film and went with the call that was made — and the former Duke star knocked down two foul shots to put his team up 114-113.
The Wizards called timeout and Flip drew up a play. They came out and Arenas forgot to take the floor with his teammates because he was still in such disbelief that for a second game he had let his teammates down in the clutch at the flippin’ foul line.
“Yeah, I was [in a daze],” Arenas said. “First he said I was out, then he said I was in, I was just sitting there thinking about the free throws.”
Then the Wizards couldn’t even execute what was drawn up. After Flip yelled for Arenas to join his teammates on the floor and get in the corner as a decoy, Butler was SUPPOSED to throw a lob to McGee. But McGee lined up at the top of the key. Butler held the ball waiting for four seconds then had no choice but to throw it in to McGee, who tried to flip the ball up before the horn sounded, but he didn’t and he missed anyway. Not sure what happened there because McGee (toward whom Flip stormed onto the floor and gave a talking to) had left the locker room before we got in there. But it definitely wasn’t how the play was supposed to go.
“The last play, JaVale was supposed to go for a lob. Double lob, try to see if they bit on one. Coming out of the time out we told him, ‘You have to be at the rim.’” Flip said before conceeding. “But the chances of scoring with one tenth of a second are not very good. But before that, They scored five with five free throws in the last 22 seconds and don’t even get a field goal attempt, we missed two free throws, we missed a block-out on Dunleavy, the call on the end, they called the foul on Brendan Haywood.
“If they called the foul on Brendan Haywood, the game was over,” Saunders continued. “They could have said their was contact earlier, but the call was on Brendan and I don’t even know that there was much contact. It was after [time ran out]. He caught the ball, came down and then tried to shoot it. It’s impossible with five-tenths of a second. If you look at the film, you can’t do it. So that was a bad call. But right now we’re inventing ways to lose. That’s the disappointing thing.”
DeShawn Stevenson agreed.
“To get the ball, catch it, go back up, in point-five seconds, impossible,” D-Steve said. “I didn’t tough him and brendan didn’t either. It’s crazy. In a basketball game it’s impossible to catch the ball with zero-point five seconds on the clock, go down and come back up and still have point-one seconds left, it’s impossible. Impossible.”
BUT, it shouldn’t have come down to that. Another sloppy second cost the Wizards. A 4-for-20 shooting performance and eight turnovers and baby-poop soft defense, which allowed Troy Murphy to go off for 14 points (equal the points Washington scored in the second quarter) and allow the Pacers to tally a total of 30 points to build a 66-52 halftime lead.
“Communicationwise, defensively offensively, taking bad shots, things of that nature,” Antawn Jamison said. “The energy wasn’t there. They played with a lot more energy than we did in the second quarter, likewise we did more than them in the third quarter. But we can’t afford to fall behind by that much.”
The Wizards put themselves back in the game. And they did so in impressive fashion. For the first time they had all three All-Stars going. Butler started early and then got going again in the fourth. Jamison was steady and effective throughout the first and third and some of the fourth quarters. And Arenas went off in the second half and even had a triple-double, which was his first since 2004, when he had the first three of his career (the last coming on March 19, 2004).
But that Arenas has yet to return. And yeah, he has his $111 million contract, but you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for him in the locker room. Dude looked lost as all get out and as if he doesn’t even know who he is anymore.
“It’s really frustrating,” Arenas mumbled and rubbing his face. “I don’t even know why I’m sitting here talking about some free throws. I never fathomed I’d be missing free throws again. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just mental, because I’m making them in practice.”
He sat there for another 30 minutes, shaking his head and talking to himself.
Antawn Jamison said Arenas will be fine, just needs to keep plugging along.
“Leave him alone,” Jamison said of his solution to helping Arenas. “It’s hard enough for him. He’s been in this a long time, know its tough, but situations like that, leave him alone and we’ll start joking on the plane afterwards.”
And Flip Saunders said “the ball will continue to be in his hands to make those plays.”
Stevenson said Arenas needs to stop thinking and play. There definitely is a big stone wall set up in the guard’s mind, it appears. What will give him a breakthrough?
But the Wizards need to avoid putting themselves in situations like this. They need to do better early so these last-second situations don’t even come down on Arenas’ shoulders until he’s right mentally.
“People are going to say, it came down to this and to that. It was the second quarter. No way we should be down 66-52 at the half,” Haywood said. “Right now you’ve just got to get a win by any means necessary. Lot of times when you’re in a funk, crazy things like this happen. But we just need to get a win.”