- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2007

Believe it or not, there exists a cure for overcoming the type of heartbreaking loss the Washington Wizards suffered at home against Toronto on Friday night.


That’s what Wizards coach Eddie Jordan told his team Friday as soon as they returned to a somber locker room in the aftermath of their 123-118 overtime loss to the Raptors.

The Wizards (38-33) handed the game to the Raptors (40-32) when reserve forward Michael Ruffin threw the ball in the air with less than three seconds remaining in regulation only to see it land in the hands’ of the Raptors’ Morris Peterson.

Peterson proceeded to hit the type of shot made more often in video games — a 31-foot unorthodox 3-pointer at the buzzer — forcing an overtime dominated by the Raptors’ Chris Bosh.

The loss dropped the Wizards to the sixth seed in the East, meaning if the playoffs began today, Washington — loser of eight of its last 12 — would be the road team against No. 3 seed Toronto, which took three out of four games from Washington this season.

“I just told them to keep pushing, don’t look back at what happened yesterday,” Jordan said shortly before the Wizards boarded a plane bound for Milwaukee, where they will play the Bucks (25-46) this afternoon. “That was a tough loss, but you can’t continue to let it linger. Mo Peterson hit an almost impossible shot, and it was a heartbreaker. But you have to leave it behind you.”

Said Ruffin: “Earlier, we were winning a lot of close games at the buzzer. Lately, we’ve been coming up on the short end with different mistakes. Giving up offensive rebounds, throwing the ball up in the air and having it go to the other team. All you can do is get stronger from it, build on it and try to come out better the next time.”

Earlier this year the Wizards were the team beating opponents on last-second baskets. Gilbert Arenas provided two of them, beating the Utah Jazz and the Bucks on buzzer-beating 3-pointers.

But the Wizards recently have seen the tables turned.

On March 10 and 11, the Wizards suffered back-to-back losses on buzzer beaters against New York and Miami, respectively, on shots by Steve Francis and Udonis Haslem.

But those games came with a little more breathing room on the schedule. The loss to Toronto comes with just 11 games remaining in the season, providing little room for error. Over the final three weeks of the season, the Wizards’ playoff seeding could change on a nightly basis.

One thing the Wizards would like to see change quickly has been the recent play of starting center Brendan Haywood.

Haywood has been held scoreless in the team’s last two games, and in the last four he has scored three points and grabbed just 12 rebounds while failing to block a shot.

Jordan said Haywood has been suffering from a head cold he caught while the team was on the West Coast last week and thought he was still bothered by it.

With 14 games to go in the regular season last year, Jordan benched Haywood in favor of Etan Thomas. However, Haywood returned to the starting lineup when Thomas started experiencing pain in his lower back.

Thomas began this season as the starter but suffered a sprained left ankle that kept him out of action for about one month. When he returned after a 13-game absence, the Wizards were rolling, and Jordan has since opted to stick with Haywood as the starter.

However, the Wizards are rolling backward now, and they need an infusion of life and energy from somewhere.

“Hopefully it will come back soon,” Jordan said of the energy that Haywood has lacked as of late. “I don’t want to tinker too much. So right now I’m going to stick with the lineup we have.”

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