The Washington Times - December 5, 2009, 12:54AM

     Flip Saunders told it like it was: “That was a typical regular season game between non-playoff teams.”

     And he was right. If this was a good team the Wizards were playing tonight, there’s no way in the world the Wizards would have been able to start the game shooting 1-for-14 and still have a chance to win.


     There’s no way that they could dig their way out of a 15-point first-quarter hole with Antawn Jamison going scoreless in the first half, and still have a prayer. (And it wasn’t just Jamison. In the first half, Jamison, Haywood and Young were a combined 0-for-14).

     There’s no way a playoff team — not a playoff berth winner, a playoff contender — comes out raining down 3’s when they’re not a 3-point shooting team, and when they keep missing them, they keep on bombing away.

    There’s no way a playoff threat goes on a 10-0 run at the end of the third quarter/early fourth quarter, and then lets off the gas and allows the visiting team to come back, take the lead and eventually win.

     There’s no way a playoff team forgets that it has a third All-Star, and Caron Butler goes without a shot in the fourth quarter. meanwhile, Antawn Jamison was 0-for-3 (including 0-for-2 from the arc) and Gilbert had seven points.

     There’s no way a team that turns the ball over 17 times for 21 points should come out victorious over a team that has only nine. But that was Toronto. And the Raptors had 25 assists to Washington’s 18.

     This team still does not have an identity and they don’t know how to play smart basketball. It’s baffling, really. This isn’t a bunch of young guys. Youth isn’t an excuse like last year. You have a veteran squad here. And rather than having a feel for things and the discipline you would expect, they easily lose their composure and break from their keys.

     Flip Saunders would tell his players in huddles to stop jacking 3’s, and what do you know, they’d come out and jack them. And the thing was, they were missing them. So, you blow opportunity after opportunity, and that gives your counterpart life.

     “Playing the way we played, we took 29 3-point shots. You don’t take 29. We shoot 32 percent from the 3’s and we take that many 3’s?” Saunders fumed after the game. “We were very undisciplined. We’ve lost a lot of games, but I’m more disappointed than any other game we’ve had I’m more disciplined with this game more than any game we’ve had. Just because when you’re about to get there, you’ve got to take that next step. And taking that next step means being more disciplined, not being complacent, not being satisfied.”

     Those are strong words. Most disappointing loss of the season? Indeed, the Wizards appeared to be making progress, but it all went out the window today.

     And the Raptors didn’t do anything to surprise them. Flip warned his players that they had to come out with aggression because the Raptors, who had an hour-long come to Jesus meeting this morning, were going to be coming out hungry and eager to snap their five-game losing streak.

    But the warning didn’t help.

    And so, all these things did the Wizards in. Sure, they battled back and could have won. But they didn’t deserve to. And as Flip Saunders said, “it’s like the basketball gods, like I always say, they have a way of equaling things out.”

     The basketball gods’ punishments were Arenas booting away the ball early in overtime (a play that led to a Toronto lead). The basketball gods struck again as Arenas and Boykins collided for another overtime turnover.

     “He told me to come,” Arenas said of Boykins. “I’m thinking he wanted me to come and get the ball. But he was telling me to come, so that he could pass the ball to Brendan. I said, ‘Well next time, use your little arm to waive me through. Wave me through means go through, come like this means come to the ball.’ “

     The basketball gods struck again when Jose Calderon fed Andrea Bargnani in the paint, only he missed, and Caron Butler was there, BUT, the ball went off his foot. Could’ve been a steal that would lead to another Wizards’ scoring opportunity.

     But in reached a basketball finger and the ball went off Butler’s foot.

     “I was trying to pick the ball up and it hit off my foot and there wasn’t no denying it, so we tried to get another defensive stop, but unfortunately fell a little short on that end.’

     Yes, they did, and that’s because that turnover off Butler’s foot gave the Raptors one more chance, and it was all they needed. Hedo Turkoglu burried a tough, tough shot over Butler for what ended up being the game-winner.

     It didn’t have to be. It gave Toronto a 109-107 lead, but Washington had another chance. Arenas, who on the trip down the floor the time before, had knocked down a huge Hibachi 3-pointer, had the ball again. But instead of delivering, Gil ended up dropping a dud and missed an open layup that could’ve tied the game.

     See, what had happened was …

     “I was going right to the hole,” said Arenas, who blew past Jarrett Jack on his way down the baseline, and hung in the air but missed the layup. “Just one of them dumb moves that I tried to do where I thought the defender was going to actually jump. Then he pulled the chair on me. I was going to try to use the contact to use the contact to push me back to the rim, btu he didn’t jump and I was off-balanced shooting the layup. I just tried to outthink him, but he [out-though] me. I don’t think about dunking anymore.”

     Arenas DID think about going for the win instead of the tie, however.

     “I thought about it,” he said. “I thought about but I figured that’s what he was expecting. And that’s how I got so wide open because he pushed up on me, thinking I was going for the three and I went in and blew the layup.”

     Basketball gods again, ya think?

    Andray Blatche missed two bunnie putbacks just before the horn, and loss No. 11 was in the books.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, your non-playoff Washington Wizards.

    The end was heartbreaking, but as Flip Saunders said, game should’ve never come down to it.

     “Everyone focuses on what happened at the end, but we lost the game in the first quarter,” Saunders said. “We can’t continue to [start slow]. We’re always ready to get over the hump. We come home, and we can’t come out against a team like that with that type of energy; a team that’s in dire straights and is struggling. We just came out and did not have it.”

     And, the coach is right.

     But, it’s done now. Now, the Wizards turn their focus to Detroit, where they travel to play at 6 p.m. Sunday. The Wizards could’ve had their first three-game winning streak since April 9, 2008. But instead, they now have to start all over again on getting that first win of another streak, and go from there.