- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Washington Wizards’ poor execution down the stretch was their undoing.

With forward Caron Butler erring on the side of caution and delaying his return from a strained left hip flexor and point guard Antonio Daniels’ right ankle still too sore to play, the Wizards managed one of their best offensive performances of the season Monday night against the Golden State Warriors.

But despite leading by double digits nearly the entire game, the Wizards collapsed in the fourth quarter, losing 120-117. The Warriors outscored Washington 36-22 in the quarter, in which Stephen Jackson scored 16 of his game-high 41 points.

The loss was the eighth straight for Washington — its longest skid in more than six years. The Wizards (24-27) fell three games below .500 with just today’s game at the Los Angeles Clippers remaining before the All-Star break.

Roger Mason Jr. scored a career-high 32 points, including five 3-pointers for the Wizards.

Antawn Jamison (25 points, 10 rebounds) and Brendan Haywood (20 points, 10 rebounds) had double doubles, and guard DeShawn Stevenson finished with 18 points and seven assists.

“We were desperate tonight,” Mason said. “This is a game we should’ve won.”

Butler, who missed his fourth consecutive game, said he had a light workout Monday before it was decided he wouldn’t play. He also said he plans to go all out tonight in Los Angeles and see whether his hip holds up.

His status for tonight — and for Sunday’s All-Star Game — is unclear.

“Honestly, that would be key,” Butler said when asked why he won’t continue to rest. “But whether I’m going to be able to play for [tonight’s] game will determine whether I play in the All-Star Game. That kind of determines everything. If not, I’ll just have to take that whole break and rest. But I’m looking forward to getting out there against the Clippers.”

The Wizards could have used Butler in the fourth quarter, when they missed 11 of their last 14 field goal attempts and were outrebounded 13-5 over the last eight minutes.

When the Warriors cut the Wizards’ lead to five at 97-92, Haywood stole a rebound from Golden State’s Matt Barnes at the rim and scored easily.

Moments later, rookie guard Nick Young took over.

He hit a runner in the lane for a three-point play, giving Washington a 102-94 advantage. Then he split guards Monta Ellis and Baron Davis with an around-the-back-dribble and scooped in a finger roll.

Young then answered a 3-pointer by Jackson with a pull-up jumper from the baseline, putting the Wizards ahead 107-97 with less than seven minutes left. It was part of a stretch in which Young scored nine consecutive points for the Wizards.

Then the collapse began.

“We jumped on them early,” said Mason, who was 13-for-20, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range. “They’re a team that goes on runs. We knew they were capable of coming back. Our big thing was getting back and stopping them from getting easy buckets.

“That’s what they were getting — they were getting layups, open 3s, second-chance shots. … That’s the bottom line. We gave too many of those up.”

Ellis, who finished with 22 points, and Jackson combined for nine points — all on layups or free throws on drives to the basket — to lead the Warriors’ furious rally. After a pair of free throws by Jackson, Washington led just 113-111 with 2:03 left.

Shortly after a turnover by Stevenson, Jackson was at the line again. He made the first but missed the second.

But Warriors center Andris Biedrins got the rebound and passed to Jackson for a wide-open 3-pointer. The Wizards lead was gone — for good.

“It was just the fourth quarter,” Jamison said. “Turnovers at inopportune times. You can’t do that. Not getting shots. Not getting back. The stuff that we talked about before the game, the stuff that we did for three-some-odd quarters — there’s no way you can now let it happen. Well, it happened, and this is a team that once they get going, the fans get into it.

“It’s tough. This one hurts.”

Jackson finished 15-for-17 from the line, most of them late in the game to seal the victory.

Today’s game


When: 10:30 p.m.

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

TV/radio: CSN, AM-980

Probable starters: Wizards — F Antawn Jamison, F Andray Blatche, C Brendan Haywood, G Roger Mason Jr., G DeShawn Stevenson. Warriors — F Corey Maggette, F Al Thornton, C Chris Kaman, G Sam Cassell, G Quinton Ross.

Injuries: Wizards — F Caron Butler (hip), G Antonio Daniels (ankle), G Gilbert Arenas (knee), C Etan Thomas (heart surgery). Warriors — F Tim Thomas (back), F Elton Brand (Achilles tendon), G Shaun Livingston (knee).

Outlook: The Wizards will try to avoid going 0-4 on their first West Coast swing of the season following losses to Denver, Phoenix and Golden State. … Washington is on a eight-game losing streak and will try to avoid its first 0-9 skid since the 2001 season.

Mike Jones

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