Chris Singleton playing better despite missed free throws

This was obviously a foul. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Chris Singleton felt the contact above his right elbow as his line drive three-pointer barely hit the left side of the rim near the end of the Wizards’ first overtime period against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Before the Bobcats could celebrate a victory, Singleton calmly walked over to a referee to plead his case.

“I knew I got fouled. I wasn’t worried about that,” Singleton said.

The Wizards benefited from more late-game awareness from referees after the league issued a statement that three officials missed a Charlotte foul on Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani on a similar play in the final seconds of a win last week.  Officials reviewed the shot and determined that Bobcats guard Jeffery Taylor hit Singleton on the arm, giving him a chance to win the game with three free throw attempts.

Bobcats guard Ben Gordon walked up to Singleton to talk to him before he took the most pressure-packed free throws of his NBA career. Singleton laughed, then Nene walked up to Gordon to get him to shut up.

The first free throw went down smoothly. The second free throw hit the back of the rim, bounced around and rolled off: “Hit every part of the rim. It happens,” he said. “Thought I was going to knock down all three.”

The third, angst-filled free throw hit nothing but net, but Singleton could only shake his head that he couldn’t win the game in that moment. After the Wizards lost, 108-106, in double overtime, Singleton was even more upset that the team extended its misery to 11 consecutive defeats.

“This is crazy. We’re so busting our butt to try and get that first win,” Singleton said. “Psychologically, we’re coming out, it’s close, nail biters and just losing. It’s taking a toll, but I think it shows how strong we are coming back every night and compete.”

Singleton had his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds, and he also added four steals in a season-high 33 minutes against Charlotte.

“He was vital to us getting back in,” Coach Randy Wittman said.

In his past three games, Singleton is averaging 10 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 27.3 minutes. He didn’t receive more than 13 minutes in his previous five games, with Wittman using nearly every lineup imaginable to find something that works.

“I’m cool with it. Comes with the territory,” Singleton said. “It’s a game. My time will come.”

Singleton is playing almost six fewer minutes per game than last season, when he started 57 games, but his field goal percentage and scoring average have improved, while his rebounds are basically the same.

He is forcing Wittman to give him more opportunities off the bench, with his aggressive style on both ends of the floor. While admitting that the adjustment to being a reserve has been tough, Singleton said he wants to make the most of his time on the floor.

“Starting tons last year, none this year: It’s crazy,” he said. “Coming into last year, I didn’t even think I would start, especially as soon as I did. This year, I’m just going to do whatever I’m called upon to do.”

The only area where Singleton has really struggled is from the foul line. He has missed 8 of 17 free throw attempts in his past three games and was 1 for 5 in the Wizards’ close loss to Indiana. His three misses in 10 attempts against Charlotte stung, but Singleton said he had a harder time at Florida State, where he missed eight free throws in a loss to Auburn.

Singleton has been unable to hide the frustrations through this difficult season, with his soft-spoken tones and worn-down facial expressions. He is wondering what it will take for the Wizards to finally get a win.

“Two overtime games back-to-back? I don’t know what else to do,” he said. “We just have to keep working.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.

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Michael Lee · November 26, 2012