- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 28, 2008

It was the rarest of NBA meetings Saturday night - two dreadful teams vying to see which could avoid yet another loss.

It was a first, too. No previous NBA game matched teams that had played at least 25 games and had a combined record worse than the Washington Wizards and Oklahoma City Thunder‘s, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

With Juan Dixon leading a spirited surge at the outset of the fourth quarter, the short-handed Wizards put aside a season’s worth of bad feelings to defeat the Thunder 104-95 at Verizon Center, ending their losing streak at eight games.

Dixon scored nine points during a 19-4 run in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer that gave his team a 93-82 lead with 4:59 left, and the Wizards finally avoided relinquishing a lead in the final 12 minutes. Antawn Jamison, helping compensate for the absence of an injured Caron Butler (ankle), led the Wizards with 29 points and five rebounds. Andray Blatche had 19 points and 15 rebounds.

The Wizards were not in a celebratory mood after raising their record to 5-23. They seemed more relieved than anything, knowing a loss at home to the Thunder (3-28) would have been the lowest point yet in a season of lows. They also know what is ahead: back-to-back road dates with the Rockets and Hornets, followed by a visit to Boston and a home game with the Cavaliers.

With that stretch looming, a sense of relief was etched on the face of interim coach Ed Tapscott, who saw his record climb to 4-13.

“It’s always good to get a win whether you’re on a winning streak or losing streak,” he said. “[Oklahoma City] is a young team with significant talent. Young is the operative word.”

Dixon finished with 13 points and two steals.

“It’s a big win for us,” he said. “We finally closed out a game. We still have a shot [at the playoffs]. I believe that.”

The back-and-forth affair had all the drama of a summer league game in Las Vegas. The teams played that quality of defense, too. The visitors might as well have been traffic cops on the floor, so often did they seem to be directing the Wizards to the basket. The same could have been said of the Wizards at times.

Nick Young started in place of Butler, who sprained his ankle in Cleveland on Thursday but is expected to return against the Rockets on Monday. It was the Wizards’ ninth different starting lineup this season.

But the Wizards found just the tonic in the Thunder, a raw bunch touting the local flavor of Kevin Durant (Montrose Christian School), Jeff Green (Georgetown), Chris Wilcox (Maryland) and Joe Smith (Maryland). Durant and Green combined for 48 points, but that couldn’t compensate for the struggles of the defense, which had only seven steals.

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