- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2010

ORLANDO, Fla. | Every time the Washington Wizards seemed headed for a loss, they returned in thrilling fashion.

And when it counted most, they didn’t disappoint.

Caron Butler made a 19-foot jumper with 0.5 seconds remaining, capping the Washington Wizards’ comeback from a 21-point deficit in a 92-91 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

Butler’s jumper from the corner swished over a charging Matt Barnes, and he held his hand in the air right in front of the Magic’s bench, snapping Orlando’s four-game winning streak.

“I had a great situation with Matt Barnes on me, and there was some air space so I followed through and hit the shot,” Butler said.

Washington went down by 21 in the first quarter, went ahead by nine in the fourth, lost the lead again and then came back for a wild, wacky win. The last-place team in the Southeast Division improved to 2-0 against the Magic this season.

“When everything possibly can go wrong, and you’re still in the game, you know you’ve got a chance,” Butler said. “We did a great job of clawing our way back into the game little by little.”

Rashard Lewis had made a go-ahead 3-pointer seconds earlier. Lewis’ last-chance shot at the buzzer missed, although the Wizards had to wait to celebrate after a lengthy review to see if the clock started too soon.

Officials ruled the shot took longer than the 0.5 seconds left, and it didn’t matter anyway because it missed.

“The horn really went off before I grabbed the ball,” Lewis said. “I thought they started the clock early. It didn’t really throw me off, I just thought they started the clock too early.”

Washington’s one-two backcourt punch simply couldn’t miss late.

Butler finished with 31 points and nine rebounds, and Randy Foye had 22 points and seven assists for the Wizards. The two shredded the Magic’s defense in the second half, slicing through the paint at will as they combined for 49 points after halftime.

“I just tried to be aggressive,” Foye said. “What ever happened in the first half, I tried to put it behind me and just kept pushing forward.”

The pair’s aggressive play came at all angles.

Just in the third period, they combined to score 34 points while going 14 for 14 on free throws and throwing in some sizzling shots from outside. The biggest might have been saved for last, with Butler’s 3-pointer at the buzzer giving the Wizards a 74-67 lead and adding to Orlando’s frustration.

“A couple of shots he made, I was right in his face. I turned around to look and the ball’s going through the basket,” said Magic guard Vince Carter, who had 21 points on 5 for 17 shooting.

However, the momentum then shifted again.

After Washington went ahead by nine on Butler’s jumper to start the fourth, the Magic answered with 11 straight points to go back ahead. The run was highlighted by a four-point play, with Jameer Nelson making a 3-pointer and getting fouled by Earl Boykins at the top of the key.

The teams then matched shot for shot to the finish.

Lewis took a near full-court pass from Nelson to give the Magic an 86-85 lead. Butler answered with a jumper, then Lewis came back with another shot before Butler’s thunderous dunk down the lane put Washington back in front with 1:07 remaining. Butler put it away for good with the jumper from the corner on the next possession.

“Quite honestly, we deserved to lose,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “The way we came out and played in the third quarter, defensively, put nothing into it. A sign of real immaturity and very, very disappointing.

“And there you go, exactly what I’ve been talking about, you start to think, ‘Oh, we’ve turned the corner or whatever.’ There’s no corners to turn. We need to keep playing hard.”

The Magic sprinted out to a 12-0 lead not even 3 minutes into the game, and Washington practically spotted them the points. The Wizards didn’t have a shot attempt until they were already down 10 points, turning the ball over six times during that span.

By the end of the first quarter, the Wizards had made just five field goals, totaled nine turnovers and trailed by 21 points before ending the period down a whopping 32-13.

“We had probably one of our worst starts ever,” Washington center Brendan Haywood said. “It really didn’t seem like they had the same confidence they had earlier in the game, and we were able to crawl back in it.”

NOTES: Butler (bruised left knee) returned after missing Wednesday’s game against New York. … Magic G J.J. Redick didn’t make the roster for the NBA All-Star weekend’s 3-point contest. And maybe that’s a good thing for the rest of the field. “I’ve never lost a 3-point contest,” he said.

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