Bradley Beal stepped over the foul line, well before the free throw he intentionally missed had even hit the rim. He anticipated that the referees would call him for a lane violation, but no whistle came.
The carom, however, landed right in his hands, giving him an opportunity to tie a game the Washington Wizards had no business being in, let alone in position to force overtime.
Beal went up for the layup, but he landed on his back after his shot was blocked and the Wizards added to their expanding résumé of ridiculous defeats. With their 101-97 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday at Verizon Center, the Wizards hold the same record (2-15) as they did at this point last season, when Flip Saunders was fired as coach.
“Tough. No fun. None of us want to be here,” Coach Randy Wittman said after the Wizards’ two-game home win streak was snapped.
They have been bad, but hardly boring while finding entertaining ways to lose. This time, A.J. Price broke his hand in the first quarter and Washington nearly overcame an eight-point deficit with about two minutes left as the backup to the backup point guard — Jordan Crawford — bailed them out with a flurry of late three-pointers.
Despite the Warriors connecting on their final 12 free throws, the Wizards managed to keep the result in doubt until the closing seconds — until Warriors center Festus Ezeli blocked Beal’s layup with two seconds remaining.
Beal, who scored 17 points, thought he was fouled on the play “but I should’ve made the layup regardless. It was right there, honestly, whether it got blocked or I got fouled, it was a clean layup.”
But those are the breaks that go against teams in the NBA cellar. The Wizards had to deal with another unfortunate injury in the first five minutes, with Price breaking his hand while fighting for a rebound with Warriors forward Harrison Barnes. Price later left the court with head athletic trainer Eric Waters and returned with a huge bag of ice on his hand to watch the rest of the game from the bench.
“I knew I hurt myself right away,” Price said. “It’s very difficult right now, but I’m okay. I bounce back.”
Price said he will miss four to six weeks. His injury means the Wizards are without all four point guards who were on the training camp roster, with John Wall sidelined with a stress injury in his left knee and Shelvin Mack and Jannero Pargo cut. They are down to Crawford, a shooting guard by nature, and Shaun Livingston, who has been with the team for less than a month.
The team is also without Trevor Ariza (strained left calf) and Trevor Booker (strained right knee).
“It’s tough, man. We’re dropping like flies over here. It’s crazy,” forward Chris Singleton said. “We’re facing adversity, and we just keep fighting. It just shows us how tough the team is.”
Crawford led the Wizards in scoring (22 points), rebounds (seven) and assists (eight), willingly setting up his teammates until he realized they needed his scoring more. After Warriors forward David Lee (24 points) gave his team a 93-85 lead with 2 minutes 19 seconds remaining, Crawford make two three-pointers to get within 95-92 with 53.8 seconds left.
“It’s really common sense,” Crawford said. “When we in scoring droughts, I’m going to score. I want to put that load on myself, so I go.”
Beal later knocked down a three-pointer to bring the Wizards within 97-96 with 7.8 seconds remaining. Stephen Curry made two free throws and the Warriors intentionally fouled Beal, who made the first and missed the second at the urging of his coach.
“I heard from everybody, everybody said, ‘Miss it, miss it,’ ” Beal said. “I missed the second one and it was kind of lane violation on me, so I was hesitant to go in, but the ball just fell in my hand and I missed the layup.”
The Warriors (13-7) have been one of the more surprising teams in the NBA because of the contributions of several players the Wizards passed over in the draft. Washington balked at Curry (22 points) in 2009 to make a trade for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, two players who were gone after one season. They skipped over shooting guard Klay Thompson (23 points) in 2011 to take Jan Vesely, who is no longer in the rotation. And last summer they selected Beal over Barnes and overlooked Draymond Green (six points, eight rebounds) in the second round in favor of drafting and stashing Tomas Satoransky in Europe.
The Wizards continue to lose — games and players — with a rebuilding effort that hasn’t moved much beyond the initial dig. “We can’t keep saying we in the games and lose,” Crawford said. “We’ve got to start winning these close games.”