Headed for Blowout Loss, Washington Bounces Back

Andray Blatche, right, added 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
Andray Blatche, right, added 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. (By Nam Y. Huh -- Associated Press)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 1, 2008

CHICAGO, Feb. 29 -- Disaster turned into delight for the Washington Wizards when a fortunate bounce led to a game-winning play for all-star forward Antawn Jamison and helped clinch a 97-91 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bulls.

The critical play occurred with the Wizards clinging to a 93-91 lead with 39 seconds remaining. As Darius Songaila prepared to receive a pass from Roger Mason Jr., former Wizard Larry Hughes sliced in and knocked the ball free.

Before Chicago's Drew Gooden could grab the loose ball, Songaila swatted at it, the ball glanced off Bulls forward Andres Nocioni and bounced directly to Jamison, who made a layup while drawing a foul on Gooden.

Jamison converted the free throw and the Wizards iced the win with a free throw by Antonio Daniels with 14 seconds to play.

"Just the way we drew it up," joked Jamison, who missed 10 of his first 11 shots but finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds. "It felt good to see a ball bounce our way finally."

Songaila, who started in place of Andray Blatche and finished with 14 points, felt that the last play summarized a three-game road trip that began with a thrilling last-second win at New Orleans on Monday night and included a blowout loss at Houston on Tuesday night.

"I saw Gooden coming toward the ball and I just tipped it towards the basket," Songaila said. "I just wanted to get the loose ball and Antawn finished the play. That's the way this road trip has been for us. It has just been up and down each night."

The Wizards (28-30) trailed by 20 late in the second quarter but used a 22-1 run to take a 56-53 third-quarter lead. Antonio Daniels (16 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) stretched the Washington lead to six by making a runner with 1:14 to play but Chicago answered with a Gooden free throw and a Nocioni three-pointer.

That's when a combination of Songaila's hustle and a lucky bounce allowed Jamison to put the Bulls away. The 20-point deficit was the largest overcome by the Wizards this season. They trailed by 15 at New Orleans on Monday night.

"We got what we deserved tonight," Chicago Coach Jim Boylan said. "We deserved to lose this game. We did not play 48 minutes. We played one half and we thought it was enough. We are embarrassed. We embarrassed the organization and the city of Chicago tonight."

The game's outcome was especially stunning considering that the Wizards were already playing without Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas and lost starting guard DeShawn Stevenson when he was ejected by referee Pat Fraher late in the first half.

Stevenson, whose three-pointer at the buzzer gave the Wizards a 95-92 win at New Orleans on Monday night, finished with two points on 1-of-8 shooting before getting tossed.

The Bulls went into the break leading 52-34 but after shooting a woeful 27.9 percent in the first half and looking sloppy doing it, the Wizards came out with energy at the start of the second half and went on a quick 10-0 run that Mason, who scored all 17 of his points in the second half, capped with a three-point play.

As the Wizards gained momentum, the Bulls fell apart. At one point, Chicago turned the ball over on five of six possessions. The Wizards finally took their first lead of the game (54-53) when Jamison followed a Songaila miss with a tip-in.

The Wizards outscored the Bulls 35-14 while forcing 10 turnovers in the third and led 69-66 going into the fourth.

"We didn't talk X's and O's at halftime," Coach Eddie Jordan said. "The guys just came out with the attitude to play better. Our starters are veterans and professional. It was nothing special I said or we did. We just came out with a different attitude in the second half."

Wizards Notes: Reporters entering the Wizards' postgame locker room had to wait several minutes to conduct interviews because most of the team was watching a replay of the emphatic dunk Nocioni threw down over Wizards rookie Oleksiy Pecherov in the third quarter.

Jordan indicated that Songaila would continue to start until Butler returns. Blatche, who had started 13 games, responded well to the change and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes.

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