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Washington Wizards Limp Into Break With a Loss to the Charlotte Bobcats

Charlotte's Cartier Martin, center, finished with nine points as the Bobcats exploited the Wizards porous defense to break the game open.
Charlotte's Cartier Martin, center, finished with nine points as the Bobcats exploited the Wizards porous defense to break the game open. (By Rick Havner -- Associated Press)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 12, 2009

CHARLOTTE, Feb. 11 -- It was fitting that the Washington Wizards limped into the four-day all-star break with a 101-89 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night because those two things, limping and losing, have been constants for the team all season.

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The loss guaranteed the Wizards (11-42) a losing final record, but a team that again played without injured regulars Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood, DeShawn Stevenson, Andray Blatche and Etan Thomas still has 29 games remaining in what promises to be a slow, painful march toward the NBA draft lottery.

Wednesday's loss to a Charlotte team that was playing without starters Raja Bell and Gerald Wallace certainly felt familiar as the Wizards fell behind early, couldn't sustain runs and were picked apart late.

Caron Butler led the Wizards with 26 points, and Antawn Jamison added 23 points and nine rebounds, but that was no match for Charlotte's balance as all five starters scored in double figures. The Bobcats shot 50 percent from the field and made 11 of 27 three-point attempts, including five from forward Vladimir Radmanovic in the second half.

Rookie guard D.J. Augustin led the Bobcats (21-31) with 24 points.

Interim coach Ed Tapscott said the Wizards "expend the energy to make a run but then we shot ourselves in the foot with mistakes and they took advantage. The explanation has always been that there's a small margin for error and the mistakes really hurt you."

After trailing by 13 in the first half and by 11 at the break, the Wizards closed to 62-59 with 7 minutes 5 seconds left in the third when Dominic McGuire made a three-pointer and then capped a fast break with a layup.

Charlotte Coach Larry Brown quickly called a timeout after McGuire's second score and his team responded with a 10-0 run that included a pair of Radmanovic three-pointers.

The Wizards, meantime, went scoreless until Butler drew a foul and made two free throws with 2:40 left in the period.

The momentum change was similar to the one that contributed to the Wizards' loss at Atlanta on Tuesday night. In that game, the Hawks used a 16-0 second-quarter run to take control.

Such shifts have gone against the Wizards all season and much of it can be attributed to poor defense. Another example was provided midway through the fourth quarter Wednesday night when Radmanovic was inexplicably left wide open in the corner one possession after making a three-pointer from the very same spot.

Radmanovic received a pass from Raymond Felton and made another long-range shot over the late-arriving Butler to increase Charlotte's lead to 89-77 with 7:16 to play. Later, after the Wizards drew within 93-87 following a layup by Darius Songaila with 4:09 to go, Radmanovic got loose again, this time drifting to the corner on the weak side where he caught a skip-pass and drained a three-pointer before Jamison could rotate over.

"We decided to get aggressive and double-team the ball," Tapscott said. "You're looking for steals and turnovers there and if they beat your interceptors and rotate the ball, they'll find an open shooter. They have a very good one. We knew what the risk was, but we couldn't just sit back and let the time run. We had to be aggressive."

When it was over, the Wizards' players were in a hurry to head home and take advantage of the midseason break.

"Time to get away and recharge our batteries," Jamison said. "We still have a lot of basketball to play."

Wizards Note: Though rumors continue to swirl about a possible trade that would send James and Thomas as part of a package for former Wizard Larry Hughes prior to the Feb. 19 trade deadline, a league source familiar with the situation said it likely will not happen.

In October, the Wizards and Bulls were close to agreeing to a deal that would have swapped Hughes for Thomas and Antonio Daniels, who was later traded to New Orleans, but that deal fell apart when Hughes was injured.

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