By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
ORLANDO, Jan. 6 -- The truly amazing thing was not that the Washington Wizards set a dubious franchise record with only six second-quarter points Tuesday but that the Wizards overcame that dreadful stretch and were still in position to steal a win from the division-leading Orlando Magic.
When Antawn Jamison took a pass from Caron Butler and drained a three-pointer from the top of the circle with just more than two minutes to play, the Wizards trailed by only four points. But Orlando closed with an 8-4 run to secure a strange 89-80 win at Amway Arena.
Orlando (27-8) beat Washington (7-26) by a combined 40 points in the first two meetings this season between the Southeast Division rivals, but Tuesday's game was far more competitive.
"We put ourselves in a grave in the second quarter," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "Then in the third quarter we kind of dug ourselves out, but when you have those real big lulls, where you get down by double digits, you have to expend so much energy to get back. We hurt ourselves and didn't have enough time to get back."
Butler bounced back from a scoreless first half to pour in 29 second-half points on 12-of-19 shooting. However, after following Jamison's three-pointer by making jumpers on consecutive possessions, Butler missed a 20-footer and Orlando's Dwight Howard essentially iced the win with a pair of free throws that gave the Magic a seven-point lead with 33.8 seconds left.
Howard's free throws were preceded by a pair of driving layups by Jameer Nelson. Howard finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds and the Magic placed four players in double figures while finishing with a 49-39 rebounding edge.
Another difference was three-point shooting, as the Magic made 10 of 26 attempts while the Wizards made three of 11.
The Wizards dropped to 4-14 in games decided by 10 points or less.
During the dreadful second quarter, Washington made only two of 19 shots, missed 14 straight shots after a jump shot by Nick Young at the 8-minute 40-second mark and turned the ball over eight times.
The misses came on all manner of attempts: a three-pointer, drives to the basket, layups and jump shots. The end result was a 16-6 scoring edge for the Magic and a 46-30 halftime lead. The team's previous lowest-scoring quarter came in 1994, when the Bullets scored seven points in the fourth quarter of a game against Golden State.
"Wow," said Jamison, who missed all three of his shot attempts during the quarter. "I'm all for setting records, but not that kind of record."
Still, the Wizards climbed back into the game behind Butler, who got going by making a 14-foot jumper while drawing a foul at the 8:46 mark of the third. Butler completed the three-point play with a free throw and went on to score 20 of Washington's next 21 points.
"In the first half they threw a lot of different things at me," said Butler. "Obviously, [Magic coach] Stan Van Gundy is a former coach of mine and he was getting me out of my sweet spots and throwing a lot of double teams. I had to figure out where the help was coming from. It was the baseline. Once I figured that out, I started beating my man to the middle and taking quick shots. I started to establish a rhythm and took it from there."
A three-point play by Butler drew the Wizards to 59-50 late in the third but Nelson answered with a three-pointer. The exchange typified the way much of the second half went because each time the Wizards threatened to make a big move, the Magic found a way to respond.
Andray Blatche was replaced by Darius Songaila in the starting lineup. Tapscott called the decision "a team matter," but the decision was likely a response to the way Blatche reacted after being removed from the game in the late stages of Sunday's win over Cleveland.
As he left the floor, Blatche appeared to yell something in the direction of the coaching staff, and he had to be calmed down by teammates.
Still, Blatche saw plenty of action Tuesday night and finished with eight points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. Songaila finished with eight points and five rebounds but couldn't speak after the game, because his throat was still feeling the effects of an inadvertent but wicked Howard elbow that dropped him to the court in the first quarter.