- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 31, 2006

MILWAUKEE — The Washington Wizards’ diminishing depth finally caught up with them last night in Milwaukee, where the hot Bucks derailed them in the fourth quarter to hand Washington a decisive 119-102 loss at Bradley Center.

The Bucks broke the game open with a 27-7 run to start the fourth quarter on the way to their seventh win in their last eight games.

“They got going. They got hot,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They made some shots, and the size factor took its toll as the game went along. We just lost to a better team tonight. They were real good tonight.”

The Bucks outscored the Wizards 37-17 in the fourth quarter, when they made almost 70 percent (15-for-22) of their shots.

Already short on big men because of injuries to Etan Thomas (ankle), Michael Ruffin (foot) and Darius Songaila (back), the Wizards (17-13) received more bad news before the game when they learned they also would be without center Brendan Haywood. The 7-footer, who had filled in for Thomas the last nine games and played an important role in helping the Wizards win all but one of those starts, limped off the court in Friday’s win over the Orlando Magic with a sprained ankle.

The shortage of big men forced Jordan to go with a small lineup featuring Antawn Jamison (17 points, eight rebounds) at center and swingman Jarvis Hayes (10 points) in the starting lineup for the first time this season.

The loss ended the Wizards’ five-game winning streak, and it was just their fourth setback in their last 17 games. It was just the second loss in their last eight games away from Verizon Center.

Caron Butler, who grew up in nearby Racine, Wis., led the Wizards with 29 points and 13 rebounds. Gilbert Arenas struggled on his way to 19 points on 7-for-22 shooting. Arenas seemed to hurt his shoulder in a collision with Milwaukee’s Reuben Patterson (21 points on 9-for-13 shooting). He had the joint heavily wrapped in ice after the game.

Michael Redd led the Bucks (16-15) with 28 points.

Butler said he’s looking forward to facing Milwaukee again Wednesday, when the Bucks visit Verizon Center.

“They had a little more energy, but that’s no excuse; we’re professionals,” Butler said. “We prepared for this challenge, but we just fell a little bit short. I can’t wait to see them in a couple of days. We’ll look at the film, see what some guys were doing and pick up on their tendencies the next game.”

Haywood is expected to return to the lineup for Wednesday’s game.

After a first quarter that ended with the score tied 23-23, the Wizards received some production from their bench. Second-year forward Andray Blatche took advantage of his minutes and contributed seven points and seven rebounds in the second quarter.

The Wizards began the period with an 18-8 run and took a 41-31 lead with 5:40 left in the half.

But the Bucks responded with more of the aggressive play that has paid off for them of late, scoring nine consecutive points to pull within one at 41-40.

Later in the quarter, a jumper by Arenas built the Wizards’ lead to 51-45, but back-to-back buckets by Bucks guard Mo Williams (16 points, nine assists) and former Maryland and Wizards guard Steve Blake (seven points, seven assists) pulled the Bucks within 51-48 at halftime.

For the Bucks, this was a chance to exact revenge for a 15-point loss at Verizon Center in the second week of the season.

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