- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2006

OKLAHOMA CITY — The slumped heads and stunned expressions of Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and the rest of Washington Wizards were the only possible reactions.

With the Wizards just five-tenths of a second from victory, the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets’ David West — not known as a jump-shooter — sank an improbable 20-foot jumper with no time left on the clock, ending Washington’s winning streak at five games and sending the 18,678 fans who packed Ford Center last night into uncontrollable celebration over a 97-96 come-from-behind victory.

After he finally removed himself from his chair and had conducted his interview, Arenas, who finished with a game-high 43 points, shook hands with former Wizards coach Darrell Walker and asked him, “Ya’ll didn’t draw that up like that, did you?”

Walker, now an assistant with the Hornets, smiled and shook the budding superstar’s hand, sharing some kind words with him before leaving.

But there was little that could sooth the Wizards (26-24).

Not after they blew a 19-point lead, then went ahead 96-95 with half a second to play when Jamison (20 points) sank a clutch 18-footer along the baseline.

But after a timeout, it all unraveled. The Hornets’ Desmond Mason inbounded to West, and before Brendan Haywood could get out on him, the second-year forward launched the shot that capped the fourth-largest comeback in Hornets history.

All that was left was a review of the shot by the officials, who needed little time to confirm the ball left West’s hand before the red light shone behind the basket.

“Coach [Byron Scott] called my number at the timeout,” said West, who has hit three game-winners this season. “P.J. [Brown] set a screen on Haywood, and two Wizards went over to cover Kirk [Snyder] because they thought he was going to take the last shot. I just turned, caught it, shot it and it went in.”

That the Hornets (28-23) were even in position to take that shot was a miracle. Down by as many as 19 points in the third quarter, the Hornets — winner of four in a row and playing without injured rookie point guard Chris Paul — outscored Washington 61-43 in the second half.

“After playing a good first half, we gave up 61 points in the second half,” coach Eddie Jordan said of the Wizards, who allowed the Hornets 60 points in the paint. “We gave ourselves a chance, and they hit a tough shot at the end. The credit goes to them. They really brought it to us in the second half.”

After leading 2-0 to start the game, the Hornets didn’t get their next lead until the fourth quarter when former Wizard Aaron Williams sank a 19-footer to give the Hornets an 85-84 lead with 6:17 remaining

The Wizards trailed 95-90 but scored the game’s next six straight points, the last coming on Jamison’s jumper.

“I’m shocked,” Arenas said. “You were shocked; I was shocked. He was shocked that it went it. It’s hard to win or lose a game with 0.5 seconds left, but it happened tonight.”

Butler, who was hampered with three fouls in the first half, was the only Washington player besides Arenas and Jamison to score in double figures (10).

The Hornets placed five players in double figures, with West leading them all with 19. Point guard Speedy Claxton added 16 points and 10 assists, and Snyder finished with 17.


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