Thursday, March 5, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY | The Oklahoma City Thunder shouldn’t expect any sympathy from the Washington Wizards anytime soon.

On Wednesday night at Ford Center, the Thunder were without their two top scorers, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green.

But the Wizards continued to be as short-handed as they have been all season thanks to the absence of second-leading scorer Caron Butler, and the Thunder beat the Wizards 88-83.

“You’re talking they’re missing their two best players, but we’re missing four starters,” Wizards center Darius Songaila said. “We miss those guys a lot. Unfortunately, that’s the hand we’ve been dealt this season, and we’ve just got to play it out.”

And it just gets tougher from here on the four-game, seven-day road trip that started with Wednesday’s loss.

The Wizards (14-47) play at San Antonio on Friday before visiting Dallas a night later and then winding up at Minnesota on Monday.

After the Wizards lost for the fifth time in six games Wednesday, though, they were hardly in a mood to look forward to the Texas stint of the trip. They had plenty of chances to beat the Thunder (16-45), but Oklahoma City seemed to hit all the shots down the stretch to seize a close game.

“There wasn’t any faltering on our part other than our shots didn’t go in when we needed them and their shots went in,” Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said. “You’re not trying to run really tricky stuff when people are screaming and everybody’s heart’s racing.

“You try to get the ball to your best offensive player or best two-man game players, and you go at it.”

Without Durant and Green out, Nenad Krstic played a key role for Oklahoma City as the game wound down. Krstic had only four rebounds, but three came in the final two minutes - including two in the final 10 seconds - to help the Thunder clinch their third consecutive win for the first time this season.

Krstic’s rebound and subsequent free throws with nine seconds left finished off the Wizards.

“On the road, there’s no easy wins,” Songaila said. “You want to be right there at the end of the game, and we did that. It just came down to executing on both ends. We didn’t get the stop we needed.”

With Butler missing a second consecutive game with a tight left hamstring, it was up to forward Antawn Jamison to shoulder the load for the Wizards.

Jamison held up well most of the night but missed his final two shots, the first of which was a layup that would have extended the Wizards’ lead to three with just under two minutes left. Moments later, Thabo Sefolosha’s reverse layup put the Thunder up for good 84-83.

“We didn’t get any stops down the stretch,” Jamison said. “They had some of their studs out tonight, and we thought if we brought the effort we would come out with a win.”

Jamison had a game-high 29 points for the Wizards on 9-for-20 shooting and added 10 rebounds.

Songaila and forward Andray Blatche had 14 each.

All five Thunder starters finished in double figures, with Krstic’s 18 points leading the way.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Wizards over the Oklahoma City franchise, which is among the teams Washington is battling for the top odds in the draft lottery. The Wizards won the teams’ other meeting of the season 104-95 on Dec. 27 at Verizon Center.

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