By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Following a recent close loss, Wizards Coach Ed Tapscott wrote the following words on the dry-erase board in his team's locker room: "Little Things."
Last night, a few of those little things again popped up and bit the Wizards, this time in a 98-92 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at Verizon Center.
The Wizards (3-13) were seeking their first winning streak of the season and were in position to pull it out until Portland's guard duo of Brandon Roy and Steve Blake plus a few self-inflicted wounds turned the game.
Blake, the former University of Maryland star and Wizards guard, made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 13.2 seconds, Roy scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and the Wizards experienced a few breakdowns at both ends of the court as the Trail Blazers (15-6) won their sixth straight game.
"We've got to take a look at the little things that cause us to have poor possessions at the end of games or some of the plays we have to make defensively against a drive," Tapscott said. "Those things will be addressed" today.
The game featured an intriguing matchup between young centers -- JaVale McGee of the Wizards, who was taken with the 18th overall pick last summer, and Portland's Greg Oden, who was the number one overall pick in 2007 before missing the season with a knee injury.
Oden posted a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) and McGee finished with six points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
The story of the game was Portland's balanced scoring (five players in double figures) and clutch play down the stretch.
Antawn Jamison finished with 22 points, Caron Butler added 16 -- 14 in the second half -- and Andray Blatche and Nick Young each scored 11 off the bench for the Wizards, who shot 50.7 percent and committed only 12 turnovers.
However, veteran guard DeShawn Stevenson, who broke out of a season-long shooting slump with 21 points and five three-pointers in Tuesday's 108-88 win at New Jersey, missed 3 of 4 free throw attempts in the final 4 minutes 10 seconds.
After a missed jumper by Blake with 2:19 to play, Butler failed to box out Rudy Fernández, who soared in and scored on a putback layup, giving Portland a three-point lead.
On another late possession, the ball somehow wound up in McGee's hands far out on the wing and the rookie threw up an air ball with only five seconds remaining on the shot clock.
Then, after Jamison drew the Wizards to 92-90 with 52 seconds left by making a layup off of a pass from Butler, Roy drove left around Stevenson, was met with no interference at the rim and scored easily.
Darius Songaila made a 16-foot jump shot off of another Butler assist with 29 seconds left, again cutting the Wizards' deficit to two, but Portland made a series of passes before the ball wound up in Blake's hands. He drove hard into the lane, was fouled by Songaila and made two free throws.
"It was really time to be aggressive," Roy said of the closing minutes. "If they were going to win this game, they were going to win it with me attacking the rim the last six minutes. Coach [Nate McMillan] put a lineup out there with Rudy and Steve Blake and it was tough for the Wizards to collapse on me."
It helps that Roy is the rare right-handed ballplayer who prefers to drive left.
"I am better with my left hand than my right hand," he said. "Being a right-handed guy, my opponents send me left. My whole life, guys have sent me left."
Said Tapscott, "I wouldn't be surprised if he writes left-handed."
Wizards Notes: Washington fell to 0-4 in the second games of back-to-back sets. . . .
Tapscott again leaned heavily on a nine-man rotation that rarely included center Etan Thomas, who played four minutes, and guard Juan Dixon, who did not play. . . .
Portland is off to its best 20-game start since 1999-2000 (15-5). . . .
Tomorrow night when they host the Lakers, the Wizards will wear throwback uniforms commemorating the 1962-63 Chicago Zephyrs, a precursor of the Baltimore Bullets.