Wizards' Butler Performs Like an All-Star

Caron Butler's three-pointer with 20.9 seconds left gave the Wizards a lead on Sunday night, but they'd need another big shot from him to win.
Caron Butler's three-pointer with 20.9 seconds left gave the Wizards a lead on Sunday night, but they'd need another big shot from him to win. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Caron Butler has been good all season, but on Sunday he was great. The two-time all-star helped snap a three-game losing streak by scoring Washington's final 15 points and making a game-winning jumper to wrap up a sorely needed 119-117 win over Indiana.

That Butler hasn't appeared much this season and it's one of the reasons why he, along with Antawn Jamison, was passed over as a reserve for the Eastern Conference all-star squad.

The Wizards (11-40) have won consecutive games only once all season and own the fewest wins in the league along with the Sacramento Kings, a team that also does not have an all-star representative.

"Like I've said, I know I'm an all-star," said Butler, who has scored 30 or more points eight times this season, which is already a career high for the seventh-year forward. "Obviously, the record don't prove that and that's why we're in the position we're in, myself and Antawn. But we're going to continue to perform as all-stars and lead this team."

Sunday's game was illustrative of just how thin a margin interim coach Ed Tapscott and his coaching staff is working with.

Butler scored a season-high 35 points and Jamison added a season-high 34, yet the Wizards had to squeeze out a last-second home win over a Pacers team that is 13 games under .500.

Apart from Butler's late-game heroics and Jamison's big scoring effort, the keys to the win were getting 20 points from second-year guard Nick Young and playing good enough team defense to get a few crucial stops down the stretch.

Those two things, having a third scorer and defense in crucial situations, have been absent for much of the season as Tapscott has leaned on a playing rotation that includes career role players who have been cast into prominent roles (Mike James and Darius Songaila) and inexperienced players who are learning as they go (Young, Dominic McGuire, Javaris Crittenton and rookie JaVale McGee).

"It's a lot easier when you have some balance on the floor," Tapscott said. "If you think about it, Antawn represents our best inside threat, Caron is our best mid-range guy and Nick is our deepest shooter. For whatever reason, [Sunday] we had that balance. That's what we're striving to get. But again, consistency of performance is easier for vets like Caron and Antawn and we're searching for those young guys to bring something. And they're coming. As we've said, there is no substitute for experience and that will come over time."

Blatche Update

Forward-center Andray Blatche, who has missed seven straight games with a left knee strain, showed up hoping to play Sunday. He suited up but was told by Tapscott that he would not play after team trainers determined Blatche needed more time.

After testing the knee in practice yesterday, Blatche agreed that not playing was the right thing and said he will likely remain out until after the all-star break, which begins Thursday and concludes Monday.

The team's first post-all-star break game is next Tuesday against Minnesota. Blatche suffered the injury on a collision with the Suns' Shaquille O'Neal on Jan. 26.

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