They were running out of players, but they didn't complain. They were missing free throws but had no explanation. They were careless with the ball late, giving a quality team an opportunity to hang around. But after the Washington Wizards lost at home, 110-108, to the Sacramento Kings last night, they decided to place the loss on what else? Officiating.
"It was partly us, but partly them," center Brendan Haywood said of the officials after the Wizards lost their fifth game in six contests. "We go out and do our jobs; they should do theirs. They didn't do their job tonight."
Sacramento's Mike Bibby, right, carries the Kings with 38 points and seven assists.
(Nick Wass - AP)
Haywood was most upset about two plays in the final minute that helped the Kings come out on top, one in which he lost a rebound, setting up the tying basket by guard Cuttino Mobley; another when the Wizards battled for an offensive rebound and, although replays showed Kings center Brad Miller knocking the ball out of bounds, Sacramento was awarded the ball that led to the decisive free throws by Mobley with 1.5 seconds left.
"We fought too hard to let two free throws win the game. . . . It was a bad call," said Gilbert Arenas, who scored a career-high 43 points but fouled Mobley on the final possession. "You let that go, then go to overtime."
Arenas made a season-high seven three-pointers, but he attempted just seven free throws. "I drove the ball 10 times, and I got the same thing, and I didn't get the call. For them to finish a game like that, I didn't think it was fair," Arenas said. "I feel like I got the Shaq rule on me. They can't call the game fair when I'm playing. When I'm driving the lane, I guess I'm too strong now. I need to stay off the weights."
Though the Wizards (31-24) went 5-7 in February, suffering their first losing month of the season, Coach Eddie Jordan didn't sound overly concerned. "I don't worry when we compete that way," Jordan said. "It's tough. It's a challenge."
The task got more difficult yesterday, when Jordan placed Kwame Brown in the starting lineup for the first time since April 7, 2004. Brown had 10 points and 10 rebounds in place of Jared Jeffries, who missed his first start in 48 games after banging his right knee during Friday's loss in Chicago. Jeffries may miss the rest of the week.
Despite the injuries and poor foul shooting (the Wizards missed 15 from the foul line), the Wizards were still leading, 104-97, with 3 minutes 41 seconds left in the game. They also had eight turnovers in 12 possessions in the fourth quarter, including two during 40 seconds that put them in danger.
Antawn Jamison, who scored seven points on 3-of-15 shooting, threw the ball to Steve Blake (a season-high 17 points), but the ball zipped off Blake's fingertips to Mike Bibby, who made a three-pointer to tie the game at 104. Brown dribbled toward the hoop, and Bibby (38 points) sneaked around to swipe the ball and found newly acquired forward Kenny Thomas for a layup to give the Kings a 106-104 lead with 1:58 left. Arenas followed with a three-point play to regain the lead, and Michael Ruffin put the Wizards up two with 53 seconds left when he hit 1 of 2 free throws. After that, the Wizards couldn't get a break.
Haywood rebounded a Bibby miss but lost the ball when he landed. "Brad Miller almost pulled my legs out," Haywood said. "That was another chance for the officials to call the foul. That's their jobs." Mobley picked up the ball and laid it in to tie the game at 108 with 37 seconds left.
With 37 seconds left, Arenas drove inside but missed a 10-foot jumper that bounded right to Brown, who quickly shot the ball in the same motion instead of holding it for the last shot. Haywood fought Miller for the rebound, and although replays showed that the ball rolled off of Miller, the officials awarded the ball to Sacramento, setting up the decisive possession.
In the final seconds, Mobley (18 points) backed down Arenas and turned to shoot. Arenas slapped down on Mobley's hand, sending Mobley to the foul line. In frustration, Arenas grabbed the ball and fired it off the backboard. "It's not one of those calls you make at the end of the game," Arenas said, shaking his head. Blake missed a fallaway three-pointer as the horn sounded.