By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Last March 30, when Toronto Raptors guard Mo Peterson shocked the Verizon Center crowd by making a game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation after the basketball improbably caromed his way off the hands of Washington's Michael Ruffin, the Wizards fell apart and went on to lose in overtime.
Last night, when Raptors guard Anthony Parker shocked the Verizon Center crowd by making a game-tying three-pointer with 0.8 of a second left in regulation, the Wizards shook it off and concentrated on the extra session, in which they outscored the Raptors 13-9 and held on for a rewarding 108-104 overtime victory.
"The difference is that when they made that shot last year, we gave the game away," explained Wizards guard Antonio Daniels, who clinched last night's win by making a pair of free throws with 4.9 seconds remaining in overtime. "This time, they just hit a great shot and that was it. We just huddled up and said, 'We are not losing this game, no matter what.' "
Such resolve was required on a night when forward Caron Butler was on the bench in street clothes with a strained left hip flexor. Butler suffered the injury during Sunday's overtime loss at Milwaukee and did not fly with the team to Toronto after last night's game.
Butler said he will undergo treatment today and tomorrow in the hope of being ready to return to action by Friday night, when the Wizards host Utah.
"I'm just proud of the way the guys sucked it up and won this game," Butler said. "That was incredible. We showed a lot of heart against a good team."
Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 24 points and 20 rebounds and came up with one of the key plays of the night when he tipped in a missed jumper by Roger Mason Jr. with 9.9 seconds remaining in overtime.
Jamison's rebound and basket gave the Wizards a 106-101 lead and was needed because as was the case all night, the Raptors refused to go away without a fight. On the ensuing possession, Jason Kapono made a three-pointer from the corner and then quickly fouled Daniels, who put away the game with his two key free throws.
"Tonight was the NBA at its finest," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "There were a lot of big shots by a good team. This is a team that shoots good daggers, and it's like a knockout punch to the head. We stood our ground, kept our composure, made some plays ourselves, kept our defensive energy up and we just never let down."
In holding the Raptors to 42.5 percent shooting, the Wizards switched between zones and man-to-man defenses and also held a 57-44 edge in rebounding and a 23-8 advantage in second-chance points.
"We teach it, we talk about it, we show it but we will not be a good team until we start boxing out," Raptors Coach Sam Mitchell said. "We played good defense but if we don't get the ball then it's going to be tough to win."
Given the effort displayed by both teams, it will be interesting to see which plays harder tonight when the teams meet again in Toronto. Last night's victory moved the Wizards (24-19) a half-game ahead of the Raptors (24-20) in the Eastern Conference, and it appears that the teams could be jostling for position for the rest of the season.
The game was sprinkled with terrific efforts by various Wizards. DeShawn Stevenson finished with 20 points and made five three-pointers, including one that gave the Wizards a six-point lead with 46.9 seconds remaining in overtime. Third-year forward Andray Blatche, who started for Butler, had 19 points and eight rebounds while taking his turn defending Raptors all-star forward Chris Bosh.
Bosh posted 37 points and 12 rebounds but had the ball knocked out of his hands by Blatche on a key possession late in regulation. Bosh also missed three of his five shot attempts in overtime.
Mason added 13 points and rookie Dominic McGuire, who has played sparingly, came off the bench and helped the Wizards build and then maintain a double-digit lead during a key stretch of the third and fourth quarters.
The 6-foot-9 McGuire, the team's second-round pick, often looked like the most athletic player on the court as he grabbed 10 rebounds -- six of them at the offensive end -- and scored two points in 22 high-energy minutes.
"Without Andray and Dominic playing the way they did, it probably would have been a different story," said Jamison, who posted his 26th double-double of the season. "That is what this team is all about."