By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 5 -- While the Philadelphia 76ers repeatedly scored on spectacular dunks and fast-break layups, the Washington Wizards were forced into taking contested jump shots if they managed to take a shot at all.
That is the best way to describe how the Wizards squandered a 12-point fourth-quarter lead and dropped their fourth straight game with a 101-96 loss at Wachovia Center on Tuesday night.
Everything appeared to be going Washington's way when Antonio Daniels gave the visitors a 90-78 lead with just under nine minutes remaining by capping a three-point play with a free throw. After an official timeout, everything unraveled.
The 76ers cranked up their full-court pressure and used a 17-0 run to take control of the game. During the run, the Wizards missed five three-pointers and had four turnovers.
"When we got into the huddle at the end of the third, we talked about finishing it," said Washington guard Roger Mason Jr., who finished with 15 points but also had three turnovers. "We knew we had to stay on this team because they have a lot of athletes and they are explosive, but we just didn't handle their pressure very well. They really turned it up on us and we lost our poise a little bit as a team."
The Wizards (24-23) allowed the struggling 76ers (19-30) to shoot 56.9 percent and score 24 fast-break points. Many of them were the result of Washington's 19 turnovers.
Forward Andre Iguodala led the 76ers with 20 points, rookie forward Thaddeus Young scored 17 and Rodney Carney had 16 points and six rebounds.
DeShawn Stevenson paced the Wizards with 19 points, Brendan Haywood posted 18 and Antawn Jamison registered his 28th double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
All-star forward Caron Butler, who missed three games with a strained left hip flexor before returning the lineup on Sunday, aggravated the injury late in the third quarter and was done for the night.
His status is unknown for Wednesday's game against San Antonio at Verizon Center, but it didn't look promising as Butler limped to the team bus after the game Tuesday night.
"It just locked up on me when I was running back on defense," said Butler, who has also been bothered by a sore right knee. "I couldn't go anymore."
With the defending champion Spurs and a four-game road trip looming, the Wizards desperately needed a victory Tuesday, but with the game on the line, it was the 76ers who played like the hungrier team as they used intense defensive pressure and aggressive drives to the basket to take control.
The final flurry included dunks by Louis Williams and Carney, a drive and layup by Iguodala and another dunk by Carney. The Wizards made only 5 of 20 shots in the fourth, missed all 10 of their three-point attempts and turned over the ball seven times.
"That was a blitzkrieg where [76ers Coach Maurice Cheeks] did a good job of putting his athletes out there," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "They denied us, they were quicker, and they were faster and more athletic. We didn't keep our poise. We didn't see all the counters in the offense. I probably had the wrong lineup out there and probably didn't call the right plays. There wasn't much time to call plays but we have to make reads."
Unlike recent losses, the Wizards were able to overcome early hot shooting by an opponent with a balanced attack themselves. Five players scored in double figures and the Wizards connected on eight three-pointers, but Philadelphia countered with all kinds of firepower of its own.
The Spurs, who won at Indiana on Tuesday night, are in the midst of a nine-game road trip and have been without point guard Tony Parker, who has missed three straight games with an injury to his left heel. Parker finished with 29 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds in a 109-94 win over the Wizards on Nov. 28 in San Antonio.
"This is one we had to have," said Stevenson, who said he was fine after taking an elbow to the throat and going to the floor late in the game. "With the game we have [against the Spurs] and that trip coming up, it's only going to get more difficult from here. We have to find a way to get a win and stop this losing streak before it gets worse."