By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Washington Wizards rookie guard Nick Young didn't start last night's game against the Atlanta Hawks but he did finish it, nearly hitting the biggest shot of an NBA career that is still in its infancy.
The Wizards trailed by three points with 17 seconds remaining when Coach Eddie Jordan drew up a play he often uses in such situations. Guard DeShawn Stevenson inbounded to Antawn Jamison, who then flipped it back to Stevenson. He dribbled twice and passed to an open Young, who released a three-pointer that rolled around the rim before popping out.
Mario West then iced the game with a pair of free throws, sending the Hawks to their fourth straight victory. The Wizards (13-12) have lost two in a row and play tonight at Indiana.
Not long after his potential game-tying shot missed, Young was greeted by injured guard Gilbert Arenas on the Wizards' bench and the three-time all-star dispensed some veteran advice.
"He said that it was a great shot," said Young, who bounced back from a pair of rough performances as a starter to finish with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting. "It happens. He told me to keep taking it and to not be afraid to take the next one."
The shot was similar to a potential game-winning three-pointer Young missed at the end of regulation in an 85-84 loss at Philadelphia on Nov. 30. Both shots looked good leaving Young's right hand but missed.
"It was rimming around and looked like a smooth shot for him," said Jordan, who made the decision to start Roger Mason Jr. last night over Young after the rookie struggled against Sacramento and Chicago. "One day it's going to drop."
There were certainly plenty of other reasons why the Wizards lost and the main issue was rebounding. The Hawks finished with a 49-33 rebounding edge and a 23-8 advantage in second-chance points.
One of the biggest rebounds of the night came with 26 seconds remaining. Young had just drawn the Wizards within a point with a pair of free throws when Atlanta's Josh Smith missed a three-pointer. However, the miss fell directly to teammate Josh Childress, who laid the ball back in.
The Wizards, who were paced by Antawn Jamison's 30 points and nine rebounds, shot 33.3 percent in the fourth quarter when they made 1 of 7 three-point attempts and gave up seven fast-break points.
Forward Caron Butler had a rare low scoring night as he finished with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting with six rebounds and four assists and the offense looked stagnant again without point guard Antonio Daniels, who is expected to miss at least another week with a right knee injury.
Washington's other problem was handling Hawks all-star Joe Johnson, who scored 16 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter. He did it in every way possible, scoring on pull-up jump shots, drives to the basket, three-pointers (4 of 6 for the game) and he also made all five of his fourth-quarter free throw attempts.
"Joe Johnson is tough, especially coming off of screens," said Stevenson, who finished with 18 points but also had his hands full chasing Johnson around in the fourth quarter. "He's got a great handle and he also does a great job of finding people."
The Hawks seem intent on proving that they are not the same old bad team that has missed the playoffs a league-long nine straight seasons. The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak in Washington and moved the Hawks two games above the .500 mark (14-12) this late for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
"We've been playing very good basketball," Atlanta Coach Mike Woodson said. "This team has been playing well also. To come in here and beat this team is something we haven't done in a while."
Wizards Notes: G Mike Wilks, who was signed Wednesday, made his first appearance as a Wizard in the first half. He missed his only shot attempt and picked up one assist just over 10 minutes of action.
Tonight's game will mark the second meeting between the Wizards and Pacers this season. Indiana won the season-opener for both teams, 119-110 in overtime on Oct. 31.
The Wizards are 3-3 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season. Indiana lost at Minnesota last night and is 6-2 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season.
The Wizards and Hawks meet twice more this season, Jan. 11 at Atlanta and March 17 at Verizon Center.