The Washington Wizards' captain returned last night, putting his right knee at risk after missing the past three weeks, to remind his teammates of the importance of the final stretch of the season. Their starting point guard relentlessly threw his body toward the rim, absorbing punishment and taking frequent trips to the free throw line. The starting shooting guard gave all he had, although he was playing with just one good arm.
But those individual efforts were lost on a Wizards team that still has an opportunity to claim home-court advantage in the playoffs but looked like a team that had little grasp of the opportunity at hand. Showing little commitment on defense and an inability to put the ball in the basket, the Wizards lost to the Boston Celtics, 116-108, at MCI Center.
Antawn Jamison, left, returns and scores 30 points but the Wizards lose to Boston, 116-108.
(John McDonnell - The Washington Post)
_____From The Post_____
Antawn Jamison returns but the Wizards fall, 116-108, to Boston.
Michael Wilbon: Coach Eddie Jordan deserves credit for holding this team together.
If he didn't have other obligations, forward Antawn Jamison said he would have been in St. Louis on Monday night so that he could celebrate North Carolina's national championship victory over Illinois. But he already had made plans to come back to the Wizards yesterday. "I still had some champagne last night," the former Tar Heel said with a smile.
The Wizards activated Jamison before they played the Boston Celtics last night. Jamison had missed 12 of the past 14 games with right knee tendinitis, but he felt that it was time to come back. "I feel up to the task. I'm playing without any pain," he said. "I don't feel comfortable playing the last two games or three games of the season and hit the playoffs. I need to get back to game speed. I need to get pushed around for a couple of weeks and see how it feels."
Jamison said the team will limit his minutes the rest of the season and he likely will not play back-to-back games. "I'm sure they're taking the proper precautions," he said.
To make room for Jamison, the Wizards placed guard Anthony Peeler on the injured list with right knee tendinitis. After missing 17 of the past 18 games, the 35-year-old Peeler practiced for the first time in several weeks on Monday but he began to experience swelling in the knee yesterday. "It came when I stopped playing about three weeks or four ago," Peeler said of the injury. "I couldn't take the pain anymore. I couldn't bend my knees." . . .
The Wizards will end up with three nationally televised games this season. In a fight with the Bulls for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, their home game against the Bulls April 13 has been moved to 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN. The Wizards will also be on ESPN two days later against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They defeated the SuperSonics, 107-96, on Jan. 6 in a nationally televised game on TNT. . . .
With Jamison returning, Coach Eddie Jordan used his 14th starting lineup last night.
-- Michael Lee
"Some individuals had a sense of urgency, they played hard, they played very well," said Coach Eddie Jordan, who will have to wait at least another game for career win 100. "Yet as a team, we just didn't seem to take command of the game. Again, another team came into our place and dictated the tempo and the style and the pace of the game."
Coming off a 79-76 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Wizards came out flat, trailing by 16 in the first quarter and 15 in the second half. They made a number of furious rallies but couldn't summon enough energy in the end. They lost back-to-back games at home for the first time in more than two months.
"We're on cruise control and I don't know why," point guard Gilbert Arenas said after he matched his career high with 43 points, connecting on 21 of 25 free throws. "We're not doing it on purpose. We're comfortable at home. We feel like we can turn it on. But it's not the beginning of the season anymore. Teams are coming at us. It ain't going to be easy from now on."
The Wizards (41-32) didn't lose any ground because the Chicago Bulls lost in Miami, meaning they remained tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. But both should be concerned about the Indiana Pacers, who beat the New York Knicks and are just two games behind.
"I don't feel that we're playing with a sense of urgency. We say it, but our actions are not there," said forward Antawn Jamison, the Wizards' third-leading scorer and leading rebounder, who returned after missing 12 of the previous 14 games with right knee tendinitis. Jamison scored 16 of his 30 points in the third quarter -- including going 4 of 4 from beyond the three-point line. After scoring a layup, he beat upon his chest and screamed, "Let's go!"
"I got into a rhythm. I kind of surprised myself a little bit," said Jamison, who shot 9 of 18. The Wizards will determine today if he will play tonight, when they face the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit.
Jamison capped a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter with a fast-break layup that gave the Wizards a 92-91 lead with 7 minutes 31 seconds left. The Wizards led 96-95 when Arenas hit a jumper with 5:35 left, but the Celtics responded with a 10-2 run over the next 90 seconds. "We got the lead, but we didn't have the discipline to capitalize on that run," Jordan said.
Celtics forward Antoine Walker missed his second consecutive game with a bruised left knee. The Celtics (40-34) had lost four of their previous five games, but they kept pushing back the Wizards' runs. Paul Pierce led seven Celtics in double figures with 25 points. The Celtics' bench outscored the Wizards' second unit 39-8.
Wizards guard Larry Hughes's sore left elbow made him ineffective on the offensive end for the second consecutive game. He had just nine points on 3-of-16 shooting in 39 minutes. "It would benefit me to sit out and rest and have it ready for the playoffs, but I need to play," Hughes said. "My team needs me out there to contribute. I felt better than I did the other game."
Perhaps no player had a rougher night than forward Kwame Brown, who had two points on 1-of-6 shooting and was lustily booed late in the third quarter. The fans' disgust was so loud that Jordan had to lift his arms to calm down the crowd.
"We're trying to encourage him and they're dissing him," Arenas said. "He don't want to get booed, so he don't want to do nothing. It's like the fans are hurting his confidence. He's not going to be perfect. They're not giving him a chance. They need to understand, you just can't boo the man."
Brown said the boos didn't bother him. "Who cares? I've been through worse stuff than that," he said. "Booing me? I feel I played hard, I just didn't hit shots."