- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Knowing the magnitude the outcome would have on the Wizards’ playoff seeding, Randy Wittman thought there was a chance his players would enter Wednesday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats with too much energy.

It would be their first sampling of a postseason game – the No. 6 seed against the No. 7 seed – and with four games remaining in the regular season, a victory would go a long way in solidifying that positioning for the winner.

“I wasn’t expecting to come out and go through the motions like we did in the first half,” Wittman said.

The Bobcats took a 20-point lead with four minutes to play before halftime, and though Washington embarked on a late surge that forced the game into overtime, Charlotte won, 94-88, in front of 17,784 at Verizon Center.

Al Jefferson had 20 points and 18 rebounds for the Bobcats, who equaled the Wizards with a 40-38 record but now own any potential playoff tiebreaker by virtue of their three wins in the four-game season series.

Marcin Gortat had a game-high 27 points and added 14 rebounds, while John Wall had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his third career triple double.

The Bobcats made 10 of their first 14 shots, yet after trailing 54-41 at halftime, the Wizards pieced together a 14-2 run over the first five and a half minutes of the third quarter.

They drew within one on a lay-up by Wall with 7:28 remaining in the quarter, but were unable to take the lead until late in the fourth, when Bradley Beal knocked down a mid-range jumper with 4:33 left in regulation.

A finger roll by Gortat with 9.9 seconds left even had Washington up, 87-85, but Jefferson got free on a pick-and-roll with 3.2 seconds to play, and Wall failed to get a shot off before the buzzer on the final possession.

The Wizards were held to only one point in overtime – a free throw by Wall with 34.3 seconds remaining – and missed all eight of their shots. They also went a meager 1-for-15 from three-point range on the night.

“I can’t say we weren’t prepared, because we were prepared,” said Trevor Ariza, who played nearly 40 minutes despite battling the flu and was held without a point. “We knew what this game meant. We just didn’t [do it], and they did, and that’s it.”

Nenê, who had missed the previous 21 games after spraining the MCL in his left knee in a road victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 23, entered for the first time late in the first quarter and played 16:52.

He had 10 points and a steal, but did not have a rebound and went 0-for-4 from the free throw line.

“I was a little nervous, but you know, in the second half, I relaxed myself a little bit, just tried to be me and was better,” Nenê said.

Trevor Booker had 16 points for the Wizards, while Kemba Walker had 17 points and 12 assists and Josh McRoberts had 12 points for the Bobcats.

The Wizards have coveted the No. 6 seed because it will help them avoid the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers, the two powerhouse Eastern Conference teams who continue to battle for the top spot.

Their quest to reclaim it shouldn’t be difficult. They’ll face the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference this weekend – the Orlando Magic on the road on Friday and the Milwaukee Bucks at home on Saturday – before wrapping up with a home game against the Heat on Monday and on the road next Wednesday against the struggling Boston Celtics.

Yet the Wizards’ performance in a game they believed they should have won can be concerning, especially this late in the season.

“It was almost like we were spinning our wheels in mud,” Wittman said. “We just didn’t have the enthusiasm.”

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