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Wizards Are Halted By a Failure to Stop

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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

LeBron James's missed three-point attempt allowed the Washington Wizards to escape with a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, and clutch plays by all-star Antawn Jamison helped pull out an overtime win Saturday over the Los Angeles Clippers.

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Last night, the Wizards asked too much of their basketball fortunes and the result was a 105-96 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards can blame only themselves: They came out flat, played shoddy defense most of the night and spotted the Hawks a 10-point fourth-quarter lead before trying to make a run.

A pair of DeShawn Stevenson free throws drew the Wizards within 96-92 with just under five minutes to play but Atlanta, which found an easy path to the Washington basket all night long, answered with a layup by rookie Al Horford (12 points, 15 rebounds) and a baseline jump shot by all-star Joe Johnson (18 points, 10 assists).

The Wizards, meantime, went scoreless on four straight possessions, and their winning steak ended at three games.

"Offensively, they were giving us problems and they were getting every shot they wanted," Wizards guard Antonio Daniels said. "We didn't bring the intensity that we wanted and needed to bring today, and they made us pay for it."

The Wizards (33-33) remained in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but their lead over the surging Philadelphia 76ers was reduced to a half-game. The Hawks (29-38) are trying to make the postseason for the first time since 1999 and moved a half-game ahead of New Jersey for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

Jamison finished with 25 points and nine rebounds, Roger Mason Jr. came off the bench to score 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and five Wizards scored in double figures. None of that, however, could make up for a defense that allowed the Hawks to shoot 55.4 percent.

Point guard Mike Bibby, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Sacramento, led the Hawks with 23 points and made five three-pointers to go with three assists.

"The one thing about Bibby is he can make a shot and if you are open, he will give you the ball," Hawks Coach Mike Woodson said. "We haven't had that since I've been here as coach."

With 16 games remaining and their playoff status anything but decided, the Wizards can ill-afford such a performance and that is one reason Coach Eddie Jordan said he plans on using a curfew for a trip that includes games at Southeast Division-leading Orlando tomorrow night and Miami on Friday.

"We're going to take some measures on this trip to try and make sure our guys are professional," Jordan said. "We've never had curfews before but it's going to put our team in a position to stay focused and get ready for a business trip and not a Florida pleasure trip. We've been around the league long enough to know what sort of a trap that kind of trip can be."

However, no curfew is suddenly going to make Gilbert Arenas healthy or heal the wrist injuries that are bothering Daniels and all-star forward Caron Butler.

Yesterday, Arenas said that he doesn't know when he is going to return on his surgically repaired left knee. Butler, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting with eight assists last night, has a chipped bone in his left wrist.

Daniels, who has been bothered by severe pain in his left wrist since a home win over Milwaukee last Tuesday, is having trouble dribbling with his left hand. So is Butler, who injured his wrist during Thursday's win over Cleveland.

Neither player plans on sitting out.

"Some of the things I'm used to doing out there I can't do right now because everything I'm doing is right-handed, but there are no excuses," said Butler, who returned Thursday after missing 16 straight games with a left hip injury. "I just have to go out there and play hard and develop a rhythm with the new style I'm trying to play with. A couple of more games, I should be back to normal."

Wizards Notes: Jamison was named Eastern Conference player of the week yesterday. In helping the Wizards go 3-0 with wins over Milwaukee, Cleveland and the Clippers, Jamison averaged 25.3 points and 9.7 rebounds. . . .

The Wizards split the season series with the Hawks, 2-2.


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