By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 13, 2006
The Washington Wizards had every opportunity to beat the New Jersey Nets last night and reach 4-0 at home for the first time since 1974-75, but Vince Carter's three-pointer from 26 feet at the fourth-quarter buzzer sucked the life out of Verizon Center and left the Wizards deflated for overtime.
The Nets outscored the Wizards, 18-6, in the extra period and emerged with a 105-93 victory, dropping the Wizards to 3-3. Prior to Carter's tying shot, the Wizards made enough plays to erase a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit.
The game appeared to be in Washington's control when forward Michael Ruffin slid in front of a driving Carter and took a charge with 3.2 seconds left in regulation, preserving a one-point lead.
However, after Jarvis Hayes made two free throws following two quick New Jersey fouls, Bostjan Nachbar inbounded the ball with 2.6 seconds left to Carter, who wheeled off a double screen and made a three-pointer at the top of the key with Hayes and Gilbert Arenas running at him. Carter's shot hit the back of the rim and appeared to stick for a split second before dropping through. Carter finished with 34 points and seven assists.
"Great shot by a great player," said Hayes, who was assigned to Carter but got rubbed off by screens set by Nenad Krstic and Jason Kidd. "That's it."
Kidd was his usual playmaking self and finished with 15 points, 18 assists and 11 rebounds for the 77th triple-double of his illustrious career. Kidd was particularly sharp in overtime when he picked the Wizards apart by repeatedly finding open teammates after working around screens.
The Nets made all five of their shots in overtime, including a three-pointer by Kidd. The Wizards made only 2 of 9 shots in the extra period, turned over the ball twice and looked disjointed while trying to defend Kidd on the pick-and-roll.
"It was a very tough game to lose," said Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan. "We fought back and got the lead, but it was a great shot by Carter. The ball went to the back of the rim, stuck there and fell in. The shot took the wind out of us and we weren't able to respond in overtime. We gave up 18 points. We'll take a day off, lick our wounds and get back to work on Tuesday."
The ugly finish was appropriate on a night when the Wizards never established a rhythm offensively. They shot 35.1 percent, made only 7 of 27 three-pointers and failed to pounce when the Nets slogged through a 17-point third quarter.
Arenas paced the Wizards with 25 points but made only 6 of 23 shots, Antawn Jamison was 3 of 6 from the field en route to finishing with a season-low nine points and eight rebounds and Caron Butler finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds but missed four shots in the final period.
The Wizards were off early, missing 10 of their first 11 shots and falling behind 17-2 before Jamison and Arenas created a spark by making three-pointers on back-to-back possessions. The Wizards trimmed the deficit to four when Etan Thomas made a layup with 1 minute 36 seconds left in the opening period but New Jersey pushed its lead back into double digits on consecutive three-pointers by Carter and Nachbar late in the second.
With 3:10 remaining in the half, the Nets led 44-32 and Kidd had more assists (7) than the Wizards as a team (6). Jordan tried to put a charge into his team by turning to reserves Donell Taylor and Calvin Booth for a portion of the second quarter.
Taylor, who did not play in four of the first five games, provided some defensive energy and gave an eerily silent crowd something to cheer about when he made a pretty reverse layup and knocked down a long jump shot in transition on consecutive possessions, but New Jersey outscored the Wizards 27-19 in the period and took a 50-36 lead into halftime.
The Wizards appear to be a team that is still trying to figure out how to win on nights when the offense isn't clicking and open shots aren't falling.
"We're a veteran team and we've been there before so [overtime] never should have taken place," Jamison said. "We've got to grow up, deal with the situation and play through things. Tonight we didn't do that."