By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 27, 2008
SEATTLE, March 26 -- Maybe a handful of people inside Key Arena could have identified Roger Mason Jr. before Wednesday's night's game.
Those who couldn't probably can now.
With the Washington Wizards struggling to shake free of the pesky Seattle SuperSonics, the Good Counsel graduate and former University of Virginia star heated up in the fourth quarter, making five of his six three-pointers. His efforts rallied his team from a 17-point second-half deficit to a 104-99 victory.
Mason finished with 22 points in 22 minutes and the Wizards (37-34) bounced back from a sloppy loss at Portland on Tuesday night to remain alone in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the surging Philadelphia 76ers.
The Wizards continue a season-long five-game road trip Friday night at Sacramento.
Six Wizards scored in double figures and Washington connected on 10 three-pointers to help overcome a huge disparity in rebounding.
Led by forward Nick Collison (nine points and 21 rebounds), Seattle finished with a 49-32 advantage on the boards and a 20-8 edge in second-chance points. But it was done in by Mason, who has been an invaluable part of Coach Eddie Jordan's bench all season.
"We call him the quiet assassin because he never says much, doesn't show a lot of emotion on the floor but he just gets the job done," Jordan said. "He's a great kid to coach."
Mason said he got into a groove early in the fourth when he took a pass from Antawn Jamison and made a three-pointer that cut Washington's deficit to six points. The shot sparked a 17-9 run that included three Mason three-pointers, two layups by Darius Songaila, who scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth, and two baskets by Jamison, including a layup that gave the Wizards an 85-84 lead with 7 minutes 48 seconds to play.
"We [Mason and Songaila] knew we needed some energy off the bench and I came out real aggressive," Mason said. "I hit that first shot and Coach told me to get it going so that gave me the confidence to keep going out there and I started feeling real good."
Mason finished his night by driving down the lane and passing to Jamison for a layup that made it 99-91 with three minutes to play. Jamison finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for his 41st double-double of the season and Caron Butler finished with 21 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals while defending rookie Jeff Green, the former Georgetown star, most of the game.
It helped that the SuperSonics (17-55) completely fell apart in the fourth quarter when they made 8 of 18 shots and committed six turnovers that the Wizards converted into 13 points.
"We just came with some energy," said Songaila, who has been playing his best basketball as a Wizard this month. "Obviously, Roger got hot and hit some shots and then we got some stops on defense and that turned the game around."
Unlike Tuesday night, when they quickly fell behind by double figures, the Wizards started strong and led 16-8 when Brendan Haywood made a layup with 7:47 to play.
The Wizards led 29-23 going into the second quarter and that's when the trouble started. Seattle quickly tied the score at 29 on basket by Donyell Marshall, who helped change the game's tone with his energy, and went ahead 33-31 on a pair of free throws by Damien Wilkins.
But the story of Seattle's 33-point second period was Collison, who hustled and muscled his way to eight rebounds. On one Sonics possession, Collison slid between Butler and Jamison, grabbed an offensive rebound and then rose up for a putback dunk. Not long after, Butler's attempt at a bounce pass to Jamison in the post was intercepted by Marshall and while the two all-stars paused to figure out what went wrong, the Sonics raced the other way and closed the play with a dunk by Kevin Durant, who scored 16 of his 32 points in the first half.
Seattle closed the half on a 6-0 run and took a 56-50 lead into the break.
Wizards Notes: The win gave the Wizards their fifth sweep of a season series. . . . Redskins Coach Jim Zorn, a former assistant with the Seattle Seahawks, sat courtside and received an ovation when introduced during the third quarter.