- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2008

SEATTLE For the better portion of three quarters against the Seattle SuperSonics last night, the Washington Wizards still appeared to be suffering from whatever ailed them in a lethargic, sloppy loss to Portland on Tuesday.

They couldn’t defend and couldn’t shoot, fell way behind the lottery-bound Sonics and were on the verge of falling to sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Then came a boost not from All-Star forwards Antawn Jamison or Caron Butler or clutch shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson but from backup guard Roger Mason Jr., who provided the necessary spark after re-entering the game late in the third quarter to lead the Wizards to a 104-99 victory last night at KeyArena.

Mason scored a team-high 22 points, including a career-high six 3-pointers, saving his team from a second embarrassing defeat in as many nights.

After heading into halftime with a 56-50 lead over the Wizards (37-34), the Sonics (17-55) went on a 17-6 tear that translated into a 73-56 lead with 4:17 left in the third quarter.

Wizards center Brendan Haywood scored on a layup, and Jamison scored on a putback that pulled his team within 13. Then Wizards coach Eddie Jordan called Roger over his shoulder, and the 6-foot-5 product of Good Council High School and the University of Virginia headed for the scorer’s table.

A minute later, Mason brought the ball up the court and hit a pull-up jumper from 17 feet.

Honestly I felt good. I wanted to get good looks and be aggressive, Mason said. I hit that first pull-up, and Coach pulled me to the side and said, ‘That was a good shot. Now get it going.’ And that little pat on the back definitely helped me, and I got rolling after that.

That jumper was part of a 12-3 run by the Wizards that trimmed the Sonics’ advantage to 75-68 heading into the fourth quarter.

Then Mason took over, knocking down five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter alone. Four of those 3s came during a 19-7 blitz that enabled Washington to move ahead 85-84 with 7:48 left in the game.

They’re a big-time team, and they kept their poise even though they were down 17, said Seattle’s Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 32 points. Roger Mason was great tonight hitting six 3s. That’s what changed the game. Once he got hot, they kind of took off from there.

Also boosting the Wizards was backup forward Darius Songaila, who scored eight of his 10 points during the fourth-quarter surge.

The Wizards extended the lead to 90-84 before the Sonics scored again. Seattle cut it to 92-89, but Washington went on another run to pull ahead 103-93.

Anytime you overcome a big deficit, sometimes it carries you the rest of the game, Seattle’s Ear Watson said of the Wizards. It just so happened to come in the second half. They did a great job of changing the way they played. They played off Mason, and he made some big shots. That kind of shell-shocked us. They got the momentum, and we couldn’t ever recover.

Butler scored 21 points for the Wizards, and Jamison added 17. Haywood had 13 points, and Stevenson tallied 11.

Trailing 29-23 after one quarter, Seattle opened the second quarter with a 10-2 run to take its first lead of the game with 9:42 left in the half.

Washington managed to retake the lead at 46-44 on Butler”s 3 with 4:11 left in the second quarter, but it didn”t last long. Seattle forward Nick Collison, who had 15 of his team’s 30 first-half rebounds, pulled down a board and went back up for a dunk on Jamison and Butler to tie the score at 46-46 with 3:52 left in the half.

Less than a minute later, Durant buried a turnaround jumper. Donyell Marshall came up with a steal and lobbed it to Durant, who raced up the court for an uncontested jam.

With 1:42 left on the clock, Durant forced another turnover and hit a pull-up jumper. Damien Wilkins scored on a layup to give Seattle a 54-50 lead, and Durant capped the half by scoring on a slashing drive to the hoop that extended the advantage to six points entering halftime.

Washington has the day off today and plays at Sacramento tomorrow.

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