Wizards Hit With a Shower of Bad Luck

deshawn stevenson - washington wizards
DeShawn Stevenson scores 21 points for the Wizards, who were playing without All-Star forward Caron Butler, who was suffering from back spasms. (Tom Olmscheid - AP)

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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 26, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 25 -- And the Washington Wizards thought their shooting was cold.

Minutes after absorbing a frustrating 98-94 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center Sunday afternoon -- frustrating because they shot 37.6 percent from the field against a Minnesota team that gave them chance after chance to steal the game -- the Wizards filed into their showers, turned the knobs and discovered they had no hot water.

"I might as well go jump in the snow," said guard DeShawn Stevenson, who was one of the few Wizards who shot well, finishing 9 of 12 for 21 points. "I mean, no hot water? What else is going to happen?"

It started with a commute from Chicago on Saturday that should have required a 57-minute flight but instead involved a 2 1/2 -hour delay in the air over the airport in Minneapolis, which was closed because of a snowstorm; a three-hour delay on a runway in Duluth, Minn., after the flight was diverted there; and a late night bus ride through snowy central Minnesota that got the team to its downtown Minneapolis hotel around midnight.

Despite the "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" nature of the trip, the Wizards had ample opportunity to win but time after time they missed shots, many of them of the open variety.

Guard Gilbert Arenas, who continues to complain of soreness in his right shoulder, was 4 of 22 from the field and 1 of 11 from three-point range. Jarvis Hayes, who started in place of injured forward Caron Butler (back spasms), was 1 of 10 from the field and missed on all four of his attempts from long range. Second-year forward Andray Blatche was 3 of 10.

Butler was a late scratch after unsuccessfully trying to loosen his back before the game and was not on the bench. Sitting on a plane and a bus for several hours on Saturday probably didn't help.

"The back was bothering me for several days," Butler said in a statement released by the team. "I talked to the training staff and we felt that it was best to sit this game out. We'll make an evaluation [today] to see how I feel and see how it responds to treatment."

Despite the absence of Butler and forward Antawn Jamison, who missed his 10th game with a sprained left knee, and their cold shooting, the Wizards had chances to seize control of the game.

Trailing by two with 17 seconds remaining and with Minnesota's Mark Blount at the free throw line for two shots, the Wizards got exactly what they hoped for -- Blount missed both shots.

However, the second miss took a high bounce off the back of the rim and fell to Kevin Garnett, who tipped it, grabbed it and passed out to Randy Foye, who was quickly fouled but made two free throws, pushing the lead to four.

After Darius Songaila made one of two free throws with 7.3 seconds left for the Wizards, Garnett, who finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds, put the game away by making one of two.

"We can blame it on fatigue but we still came out here and got the same shots we would've had if we would've got here earlier," said Arenas, who doused himself with warm bottles of water after stepping out of the ice cold shower. "We just didn't capitalize on them. They hit shots and we were missing shots, you can't take anything away from them. If we would've got a rebound at the end, it might have been a different outcome and maybe they would have cut our hot water on."

One bright spot was the play of reserve guard Roger Mason Jr., who provided a spark by scoring a season-high 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting. Songaila also played well, finishing with nine points and three rebounds in 14 minutes. Washington's bench outscored Minnesota's, 31-14, but the Wizards lost because Arenas, Hayes and Blatche combined to make 8 of 42 shots.

Stevenson may have been speaking for everyone when he headed to the team bus for a flight to New Jersey, where the team will play the Nets on Tuesday night.

"I can't wait to get out of here," he said. "This was whole trip was terrible."


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