Hobbled Wizards Fall Short, Lose 3rd Straight
Pacers 93, Wizards 85

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 23, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 22 -- Laughter filled Conseco Fieldhouse when a fan wandered onto the court in the third quarter Saturday night and was taken down on a hard tackle by a beefy security guard.

Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan was too busy setting up his next play to notice what was going on, or perhaps he was simply relieved that the fan, who looked as if he'd consumed too much holiday eggnog, didn't stumble and take out one of his players.

Already without injured guards Gilbert Arenas and Antonio Daniels, the Wizards received more bad news before the game when all-star forward Caron Butler was scratched from the lineup because of injured ankles.

The results were predictable. The Wizards showed the resiliency they've displayed all season and kept things interesting well into the fourth quarter before falling, 93-85.

It was the third straight loss for the Wizards (13-13).

Forward Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 29 points and 12 rebounds and guard Roger Mason Jr., who was making his second straight start, scored a career-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but the Wizards shot 40.3 percent and committed 15 turnovers, which the Pacers turned into 24 points.

"We don't want to keep it close, we want to win the game," Jordan said. "There's no real satisfaction out of keeping it close. I liked the way we played. We played hard, we stayed organized and did the things we are supposed to do. But we just couldn't get over the top and make the plays at the offensive end."

The Wizards trailed 84-79 with just under four minutes remaining when Indiana forward Danny Granger made a three-pointer that pushed the lead back to eight. The Wizards got no closer than six the rest of the way.

Granger, who had a big game in Indiana's season-opening overtime win over the Wizards, led the Pacers with 25 points while Kareem Rush came off the bench to score 15. Indiana's 35 field goals were the product of 29 assists.

"It seemed like every time we got it close, they made a big shot or came up with a three-point play to push the lead back to where it was," Mason said. "They made some big shots and we came up short."

Butler sprained his right ankle during practice Thursday but started Friday night against Atlanta. He said he felt fine until he rolled the left ankle when he landed after taking his first shot.

Butler toughed it out but obviously wasn't himself and finished with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting in just under 40 minutes in a 97-92 loss. He is listed as day-to-day.

The good news is that the Wizards will have Sunday off and don't play again until Wednesday night at Charlotte.

"Hopefully I can get some rest, get some treatment and go," Butler said. "I definitely wanted to be out there. I tried to give it a shot, but it was just too painful."

The Wizards could have used their leading active scorer and third-leading rebounder Saturday night. The Pacers seized control with a 9-1 second-period run that was as much a product of Washington's cold shooting as Indiana's excellence.

The Wizards trailed by 11 after scoring a season-low 34 first-half points on 35.1 percent shooting. Rush did most of the damage for Indiana, scoring 12 first-half points on 5-of-7 shooting. He closed the half by scoring Indiana's final 11 points.

Mason's strong performance capped an emotional day.

The Wheaton native and former Virginia star did not fly with the team to Indianapolis following Friday night's home loss to Atlanta so he could attend the funeral of his grandfather, Frank Mason, on Saturday morning. He flew in Saturday afternoon, met the team in time for warmups and then went out and played one of his best games as a pro.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to play," Mason said. "My teammates let me know it was okay, so I went out and did for my grandfather."

Wizards Notes: The teams will meet once more this season, April 14 at Verizon Center. . . . The Wizards wore their black and gold uniforms for the seventh time this season.

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