By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 31, 2008
LOS ANGELES, March 30 -- Nick Young turned in the game of his life just a short drive from where he was raised, DeShawn Stevenson connected on a career-high eight three-pointers and Caron Butler posted his third triple-double of the season, but the Washington Wizards still came up short in a 126-120 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Sunday night.
Young, a rookie who starred at USC and idolized Lakers star Kobe Bryant as a teenager, scored a career-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting but missed a potential go-ahead basket with 19 seconds remaining in the extra period. The Lakers put away the game by making three free throws in the game's final 13 seconds.
Bryant led the Lakers with 26 points and 13 assists. Stevenson finished with 27 points and Butler posted 17 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds for the Wizards (38-35), who will close a five-game road trip at Utah on Monday night.
It was unknown following the game whether veteran point guard Antonio Daniels would be available Monday night. He was in obvious pain as he left the court clutching his left wrist in the first quarter and did not return. He has been playing with a sprained left wrist since early March.
"I'm happy for Nick Young and I'm proud of my guys but we just played a team that executed down the stretch," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "And we just couldn't come up with the one big play at the end."
The game turned after Young gave the Wizards a 120-117 lead by making an 18-foot jump shot with 1:17 left in overtime. First, Derek Fisher froze Young with a pump fake before making a 22-foot jump shot. Then, after a Young turnover, Bryant drew a foul on Stevenson and made two free throws, giving the Lakers a 121-120 lead with 37 seconds remaining.
Young posted up Sasha Vujacic but was short on a turnaround jumper from about 17 feet. After Jamison intentionally fouled Bryant to stop the clock, Bryant made the first of two free throws with 13 seconds to play.
Bryant missed the second, but Luke Walton kept the ball alive and Vujacic chased it down in the corner, where he was quickly fouled. He then put the game away by making two free throws with 10 seconds to play.
Butler helped send the game to overtime when he made a three-pointer from the wing over Fisher to tie the score at 111 with 10 seconds remaining in regulation. On the final possession, Bryant passed to an open Fisher but Fisher was long on a shot from the corner.
The Wizards trailed 58-47 at halftime but charged back with a 39-point third quarter that included five Stevenson three-pointers. Young, who played in front of his parents and other relatives, then heated up by scoring 15 of his 27 points in the fourth despite the defensive presence of Fisher and other Lakers who couldn't get a handle on Young as he heated up and gained confidence.
"I didn't really expect to play much," said Young, who played only two minutes in the team's previous visit to Staples Center, a Feb. 13 win over the Clippers. "I was prepared to cheer my team on but when Antonio went down, my role changed and I was ready."
When reminded that he actually outscored his hero, Bryant, Young broke into a huge smile.
"Really?" Young said. "Wow. That's something special. He's a great player and he showed it again tonight."
Bryant's shot was off all night as he made just 7 of 24 attempts but his slashing and passing set up easy shots for teammates like Fisher, who missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer in regulation but came up big in overtime.
"The [defensive] coverage we had when he missed at the end of regulation was wrong and the coverage we had right, he made shots," Jordan said. "But that's what veterans do and Kobe commands a lot of attention. The key was, we wanted to rebound and one rebound we didn't get hurt us."
Despite the loss, the Wizards, remain alone in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of Toronto.