For nearly half a season, the Washington Wizards have searched for a player capable of closing out games.
All-Stars Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison generally can do enough to keep Washington in games. But in the final minutes, opponents cripple the Wizards by throwing double-teams at the duo.
That was the case Saturday. Washington blew a fourth-quarter lead for the 14th time this season and lost 92-89 to the Charlotte Bobcats at Verizon Center.
After leading all game, the Wizards went cold and let the Bobcats erase a 13-point third-quarter deficit and take a 71-70 lead 30 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Wizards regained an 84-79 lead, then committed two turnovers, which sparked an 11-1 run that put Charlotte up 90-85 with 2:09 remaining.
Butler made two foul shots and center Andray Blatche got a putback to fall, pulling the Wizards within one with 56 seconds left. But with the Bobcats denying Butler and Jamison a chance at heroics, Mike James, Andray Blatche and Nick Young all missed shots in the final 40 seconds.
“You take a look at the last three shots that didn’t go - we had a good look, but they didn’t go,” interim coach Ed Tapscott said. “However, we had control, and we ceded that back. We shouldn’t have been in the position where those shots were so critical. We put ourselves in that, so we didn’t do anything for ourselves there.”
The loss dropped the Wizards (7-29) to 0-9 against fellow Southeast Division foes and 0-8 in back-to-backs this season.
“We came up short on an opportunity, and they got the ball, capitalized,” Butler said. “There was a situation where we couldn’t get the ball to Antawn and myself at the end for the play that was drawn up, fumbled the ball and that was the game.”
Forward Boris Diaw scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Bobcats (14-24) and reserve guard Shannon Brown scored five of his nine points in the fourth.
Like the Bobcats, the Wizards had four double-digit scorers, with Butler leading the way with 19 and Blatche adding 14 and 10 rebounds. Jamison, who suffered a right patellar tendon strain after bumping knees with a defender, finished with 13 points and Young contributed 12 off the bench.
Rookie center JaVale McGee played for the first time in four games, entering with four minutes left in the first. As the period came to a close, he scooped up a loose ball near halfcourt, led his own break, took off from a few feet inside the foul line and threw down a tomahawk jam to put his team up 31-23.
The youthful fireworks continued when Young nailed a fadeaway jumper to give Washington a 35-25 lead three minutes into the second quarter. The play gave the Wizards their first double-digit lead against an opponent in the past four games.
A minute after his big shot, Young shook a defender with a spin move and dished the ball to McGee, who cocked back and delivered a two-handed jam to put the Wizards up 39-27.
The Wizards extended their lead to 47-35 with 4:34 left in the half when McGee got a pass from Jamison, got Emeka Okafor into the air with a head fake and went up for a reverse jam.
Washington then cooled, however, and Charlotte closed the half with a 13-2 surge to pull within 49-45 at halftime. The Wizards regained their momentum early in the third quarter and established another 13-point lead before the Bobcats began to chip away at the 68-55 deficit with 4:16 left in the third.
Washington went 0-for-3 from the field down the stretch of the third quarter and turned the ball over three times, aiding a 14-2 Charlotte run that pulled the Bobcats within 70-69 heading into the fourth.