- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The absence of Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler from last night’s home finale against the Orlando Magic had nothing to do with the Washington Wizards’ latest loss.

The Wizards players who did play were to blame for the 95-89 loss because they were horrid from the foul line.

Sure, there also was the ball that slipped out of Brendan Haywood’s hands late in the fourth quarter that resulted in Hedo Turkoglu knocking down a jumper for a 93-89 Magic lead. Wizards coach Eddie Jordan suggested he should have called a timeout to set up a play before the turnover that resulted in Turkoglu’s hoop.

That might have worked, might not have.

But if the Wizards (40-41) hadn’t gone 25-for-44 from the line, they would have won the game, eliminated the possibility of falling to the eighth seed and ended a five-game losing streak.

“It’s just one of those nights,” Jordan said after idle New Jersey slipped ahead of the Wizards for the sixth seed in the East. “You have to make free throws. We don’t have a lot of room for error. You miss that many, and you are sort of rowing upstream with one oar.”

The Wizards still can finish sixth in the standings with a win at Indiana in tonight’s regular-season finale, coupled with a home loss for New Jersey against Chicago.

The Bulls, who beat the Wizards by 33 points on Sunday, currently are the No. 2 seed but could fall to the fifth seed with a loss. That would open the door for Cleveland to claim the No. 2 seed if the Cavaliers win their home finale tonight against Milwaukee.

And if the Nets and Magic (39-42) both win and the Wizards lose, Washington will open against top-seeded Detroit.

Jordan said he still isn’t watching the scoreboard, no matter how nutty the end of the season is. His focus is on directing the Wizards to a third consecutive non-losing season with a victory tonight.

“We want to avoid the losing record, and 41-41 is something that should motivate us,” Jordan said. “We have to bring the same energy and hopefully make plays.”

In losing for the eighth time in the last nine games and falling at home for a season-high sixth straight time, the Wizards wasted a season-high 48 points from Antawn Jamison. Jamison, who 14-for-26 shooting and nine rebounds, struggled at the line, making just 15 of 24 attempts.

But other than Jamison — who in 2000 scored 51 points in back-to-back nights while with the Golden State Warriors — the Wizards weren’t much of a threat.

Jarvis Hayes added 15 points and was the only other Wizards player to reach double figures.

Turkoglu led the Magic with 26 points, Dwight Howard added 17 points and 12 boards and Grant Hill finished with 13 points.

The Wizards trailed by 12 points at halftime after the Magic held them to just one field goal in a more than five-minute span late in the second quarter.

“I thought that stretch hurt us,” Jordan said. “We were up there for a minute, and then we kind of let the game get away from us. I don’t think we managed it very well right there.”

But the Wizards managed to erase the Magic’s lead in the third quarter, opening the second half on a 21-5 run that led to a 66-62 lead when Jamison, who scored 16 in the quarter, sank a 3-pointer with 3:46 to play.

The Wizards lead remained at four points at start of the fourth quarter, but it simply didn’t last long.

Turkoglu capped a 7-0 run by the Magic at the start of the fourth quarter, and the Wizards never led again.

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