By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 25 -- DeShawn Stevenson has never developed into the superstar player some projected him to become when he entered the NBA out of high school in 2000, but Monday night, when the Washington Wizards needed a spectacular effort to beat the New Orleans Hornets, Stevenson was everything his team needed him to be.
Stevenson scored a career-high 33 points and made a game-winning three-pointer from 25 feet as time expired, giving the Wizards a 95-92 victory.
Moments before making the game-winner, Stevenson gave Washington its first lead of the game, 92-91, when he drove, drew a foul and made two free throws with 14 seconds left.
The Hornets put the ball in the hands of all-star point guard Chris Paul (22 points, eight assists) for their final possession. Paul was cut off on a drive and made a desperation pass to center Hilton Armstrong, who fumbled the ball but recovered enough to draw a foul while attempting to get up a shot with 7.3 seconds to play.
Armstrong missed two free throws but Wizards forward Antawn Jamison was called for a lane violation on the second attempt and Armstrong made his third try.
With no timeouts remaining, the Wizards inbounded the ball to Stevenson, who quickly dribbled up the left side of the court. He worked his way behind the three-point line and released a high-arcing shot that made it over the outstretched arms of Peja Stojakovic and Armstrong.
Stevenson celebrated by running past halfcourt while yanking on his jersey.
"I knew we didn't have any timeouts and I had it going the whole game so I felt like it was going to be either me or Antawn," said Stevenson, who scored 16 fourth-quarter points. "Once I came past halfcourt, I saw I had an open shot and I took it."
The victory gave the Wizards (27-29) a much-needed boost as they continue a three-game road trip Tuesday night in Houston. The Rockets have won 12 straight games.
All-star forward Caron Butler missed his ninth straight game with a strained left hip flexor. He will also be out Tuesday night, so the Wizards must continue to get contributions from the likes of Stevenson, Jamison (10 points, 10 rebounds) and center Brendan Haywood (12 points, eight rebounds).
Haywood came up with several crucial plays down the stretch, including a layup that drew the Wizards within one with 51.8 seconds remaining. He also kept a possession alive with an offensive rebound with 22.7 seconds to go.
Led by Roger Mason Jr., who kept the Wizards close in the first half by scoring all 12 of his points, the Washington bench contributed 26 points and some timely defense.
Coach Eddie Jordan changed his lineup for the start of the second half, replacing starters Antonio Daniels and Andray Blatche with Mason and Dominic McGuire. The move paid off as the Wizards opened the half on a 14-4 run that Stevenson capped by making a three-pointer off a nice pass from McGuire.
That Stevenson shot made it 56-55 New Orleans, but the Hornets carried a 74-68 advantage into the fourth quarter after reserve guard Jannero Pargo made a three-pointer from halfcourt as time expired.
The Wizards shot only 42.5 percent and were outrebounded 42-35, but made 21 of 24 free throw attempts. The Hornets have lost three in a row and hurt themselves Monday night by making only 12 of 22 free throws.
"The biggest thing is that we played their style of basketball," New Orleans Coach Byron Scott said. "We never got up and down the floor. We never caused turnovers and never pushed the tempo. Obviously, we had a bunch of key misses and just played them too soft."
In the end, Stevenson proved to be the difference. He missed a three-pointer that would have drawn the Wizards into a tie on the last possession of a loss at Golden State on Feb. 11 but connected when it mattered most Monday night. His coach was appreciative.
"He's had some ailments but he just comes out every day," Jordan said of Stevenson, who has been playing on a sore knee but has started 223 consecutive games. "He's a warrior, man, a true warrior. His confidence is growing -- he's making threes -- he's just a true pro. This is a man's league and he is man. In the dictionary next to that word there is a picture of DeShawn Stevenson."