- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NEW ORLEANS | The Washington Wizards overcame the absence of leading scorer Caron Butler with their first back-to-back wins of the season.

But surviving without the All-Star swingman for a third night against Western Conference power New Orleans proved too tall a task.

The Wizards, playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road, battled for the better part of three quarters but fizzled down the stretch and lost 97-85 to drop to 6-24 on the season.

Forward Antawn Jamison tried to shoulder the load, scoring 22 points on 10-for-25 shooting. Point guard Mike James, making his first appearance in New Orleans since the Hornets traded him to Washington on Dec. 10, recorded 16 points and seven assists but fouled out with 2:28 left.

“The main thing was coming in here, trying to get a win in New Orleans, but we didn’t make the plays when we needed them most,” James said. “There ain’t such thing as individual victories, ain’t no such thing as moral victories, especially in this game. The only way you’re judged in this game is wins and losses, so we’ve gotta get back and continue to work.”

Washington shot 45.6 percent from the field, only slightly worse than New Orleans’ 45.8, but 30 of the Hornets’ points came from 3-point range. The Wizards hit one 3-pointer all game.

And after hanging with their hosts up until seven minutes remained in the third - the score tied at 56-56 - the Wizards missed six of their final nine shots of the quarter. The Hornets, meanwhile, closed out the period on a 12-7 run to take a 68-63 lead into the fourth.

New Orleans (19-9) continued to pull away, outscoring Washington 29-22 in the fourth.

Rasual Butler led the Hornets with 21 points, including five 3-pointers. David West added 20 points and Chris Paul recorded his seventh career triple-double with 15 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.

“Their 3-point shooting and Chris Paul, I’ll say that was it in a nutshell,” Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said. “We sustained it for a while, and they kept pressing, and finally once they got that run we couldn’t answer. I give them credit. They kept after it and kept after it, we kept fighting back, and then that run they pulled away.”

The Wizards made just seven of 20 first-quarter shot attempts while struggling to slow the Hornets, who shot 9-for-18 from the field and led 25-17 heading into the second.

The Wizards pulled within one, however, in the first three minutes of the second by reeling off a 7-0 run.

New Orleans went back up by eight, leading 38-30. But Washington whittled away at the lead with another 8-0 run of its own to tie the game at 41-41. The Hornets regained their lead before the Wizards tied the game again at 43-43 with 35 seconds left in the half.

And to cap it all, DeShawn Stevenson left James Posey open for a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left but redeemed himself when he heaved a shot from 42 feet out and beat the buzzer to tie the game at 46-46 at halftime.

Note — Butler said after the game that he will receive an MRI on his ankle in the District on Wednesday. The ankle, which he rolled on Christmas Day in Cleveland, is still swollen and painful, and there is a knot on the inside lower area, Butler said. He can’t put pressure on it, he said, and can’t shift in any direction without pain.

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