In a Familiar Tale, Wizards Squander a Late Lead

Antawn Jamison gets control of the ball against the Bucks' Luc Richard Mbah a Mout.
Antawn Jamison gets control of the ball against the Bucks' Luc Richard Mbah a Mout. (Lawrence Jackson - AP)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ed Tapscott said it best when he stepped onto the podium for his postgame news conference following an oh-so-familiar-feeling 97-91 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

"Doesn't it feel like we've seen this movie before?" the Wizards' interim coach said. "It's a constant loop."

That it is.

Once again, the Wizards (7-30) played well enough to build a second-half lead but could not make the necessary plays to hold on. The Wizards have now lost 15 games in which they held a fourth-quarter lead or were tied during the quarter.

Last night's ending differed only in the details as the Wizards squandered a career-high 30-point effort from second-year guard Nick Young after leading by five entering the final quarter.

Michael Redd led the Bucks (19-21) with 29 points, eight of them coming in the fourth, while center Andrew Bogut had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Charlie Villanueva contributed 16 points off the bench.

Young was nearly unstoppable for the third straight game as he connected on 12 of 19 shots and helped keep the Wizards close on a night when Caron Butler finished with six points on 2-of-13 shooting and the Wizards shot 43.8 percent as a team. Antawn Jamison, who was a game-time decision because of a sore right knee, started and finished with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

Milwaukee shot 47.5 percent but closed the game with an 8-2 push.

How can the same thing keep happening night after night?

"Honestly, I don't know," said Butler, who got off to a rough start by missing several layups in the first quarter and went on to finish without an assist for the first time all season. "Tonight, we didn't get to a couple of loose balls and then a couple of calls could've gone our way and didn't go our way and then we had some second-chance attempts we didn't finish. They were able to pull away at the end."

The Wizards led 74-69 entering the fourth and appeared ready to snap a four-game losing streak when they fell into a familiar pattern of settling for jump shots while the opponent chipped away.

The Wizards were outscored 28-17 in the fourth, punctuating it by going scoreless in the final 1 minute 33 seconds.

"We just worry too much in the fourth quarter," Young said. "It's in the back of our minds or something. Every team comes back on us. They start making a run and you can see it on our faces. We have to just push through that."

Easier said than done, according to Tapscott, who has tried everything from juggling his lineup to posting motivational quotes from such people as Aristotle and John Wooden in the team's locker room.

After his team's latest letdown, Tapscott referenced Thomas Paine ("These are the times that try men's souls") and likened his team to a frustrated author, one who evidently can't pen a bestseller to save his life.

"We're like a writer with writer's block," Tapscott said. "We can write those first two chapters writing fairly efficiently and fairly well but when it comes to the ending, we just can't seem to write a good ending. The only thing we can do is continue to write."

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