- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 31, 2009

ATLANTA | For about four minutes Friday night, it appeared the wizardry Flip Saunders and Co. performed in Washington’s season-opening victory at Dallas would carry over into a matchup with the Atlanta Hawks.

But efficiency and a double-digit lead quickly were replaced by sloppiness and a double-digit deficit. The Wizards never fully recovered and fell 100-89.

To make matters worse, forward Caron Butler bruised his left knee while diving for a loose ball, left in the second quarter and did not return. His status for Saturday’s home opener against New Jersey is in doubt.

Butler, who scored five quick points in the opening minutes but then went cold, left the game with seven minutes left in the second. During a timeout with 50 seconds left in the half, he stood back from the huddle and massaged his knee while grimacing and talking with trainers before going back to the locker room.

He tested his knee during third-quarter warmups but, after flexing it a few times, returned to the locker room and remained there the rest of the game.

It was another unfortunate twist for the Wizards, who already are without Antawn Jamison. The forward is recovering from a partially dislocated shoulder suffered in the preseason and isn’t likely to return for another two to four weeks.

Saunders said the Wizards don’t yet know enough about Butler’s condition to say whether he’s questionable or doubtful for Saturday’s game.

“Hopefully he bounces back quickly, man,” center Brendan Haywood said. “Sometimes it’s just frustrating. It feels like we’re cursed.”

Nick Young started the third quarter in Butler’s place but missed all four shot attempts — after going 0-for-4 in the first half — and was pulled from the game. But the game had gone south long before Butler’s exit. After an initial eruption, which included Gilbert Arenas going on a mini-scoring spree (notching five points while handing out a pair of assists) and Washington building a 15-5 lead, the Wizards went cold.

The Wizards missed eight of their final 12 shots in the first quarter, Arenas turned the ball over four times and Mike Miller, Fabricio Oberto and DeShawn Stevenson all got into foul trouble.

“When I got four quick turnovers, I stopped being aggressive, worrying about how many turnovers I get,” said Arenas, who scored 23 points on 9-for-22 shooting and had seven turnovers to four assists. “You just can’t play the game like that.”

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