Thunder Get Past Wizards, 88-83

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Thabo Sefolosha, right, goes up for a shot between Wizards forwards Antawn Jamison, left, and Andray Blatche in the first quarter Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Thabo Sefolosha, right, goes up for a shot between Wizards forwards Antawn Jamison, left, and Andray Blatche in the first quarter Wednesday in Oklahoma City. (Sue Ogrocki - AP)
By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 5, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY, March 4 -- When Dominic McGuire hit two free throws with 2 minutes 32 seconds left, the Washington Wizards had a one-point lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they were also at a decided disadvantage with no viable scoring options other than Antawn Jamison.

Second-leading scorer Caron Butler sat behind the bench in street clothes, sidelined for the second consecutive game with a left hamstring injury. It got worse for the Wizards when reserve guard Nick Young, having shot the Wizards back into a game for one of the rare times in the second half of this season, was forced to leave the game with about 85 seconds remaining when he absorbed a Nick Collison elbow to his left cheek.

Jamison scored a game-high 29 points, but the Wizards watched the Thunder score the final six points en route to a disappointing 88-83 loss at Ford Center.

"We had some opportunities, we didn't react well sometimes because we knew [the Thunder] were going to load up on Antawn. We can't always expect him to pull a miracle out of his hat," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "We need other guys to step up, drive the ball, make a play. We didn't get that tonight, so they win."

The Thunder was similarly depleted, without starters Kevin Durant (sprained left ankle) and Jeff Green (sore back), but it was able to make the final, triumphant push behind Thabo Sefolosha, who scored 15 points and made a decisive reverse layup with 1:47 remaining; rookie point guard Russell Westbrook, who had a rough shooting night but nailed a critical 19-foot jumper with 33 seconds remaining; and Nenad Krstic, who scored a team-high 18 points, including the game-clinching free throws.

"The last two minutes, they hustled, they rebounded. To me, it felt like the they wanted the game more than we did and they got it," Andray Blatche said after scoring 14 points with five rebounds.

The Wizards (14-47) dropped the first game of a four-game road trip that will also take them through San Antonio, Dallas and Minnesota. The Wizards defeated the Thunder, 104-95, on Dec. 27 and were hoping to sweep a season series against an opponent for the first time this season. But since winning their first two games after the all-star break, the Wizards have lost five of six.

The Thunder (16-45) recorded its first three-game winning streak of the season. The Wizards trailed 68-58 with less than 14 minutes remaining but they rallied with an 18-4 run sparked mostly by Jamison and then Young, who scored all eight of his points in the second half, including six in the final quarter.

But after McGuire gave the Wizards an 83-82 lead, the Wizards failed to execute on their next four possessions. Jamison had his shot altered by Sefolosha, then Young lost the ball while getting hit on the cheek while trying to drive to the hoop. Javaris Crittenton missed a layup, then Jamison tried to force a jump hook that missed badly.

"It's what you expect. I was the one guy they had to make it difficult for," Jamison said. "They knew they were going to try to get me the ball and they did a good job of loading up. We definitely needed somebody to take the pressure off of myself and give them another guy they got to worry about. [Young] got it going, unfortunately, he got hurt."

The Wizards had never played the Thunder in Oklahoma City, but they certainly had some history at Ford Center -- and none of it was particularly good. The first time they played here was in a preseason game in 2004, when former coach Eddie Jordan was ejected during a loss against the Lakers. Yes, in an exhibition game.

Two years later, they faced the New Orleans Hornets -- who were spending a two-year reprieve in this city after Hurricane Katrina -- in the regular season, and lost when David West hit a game-winning jumper in the final second. And finally, the following season, they suffered an embarrassing loss on national television when the Hornets were playing without four starters, including Chris Paul and West.

Now the Thunder is part of the Wizards' Oklahoma City misery.

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