As four-game trip West looms, the Wizards take stock of their situation

The Pacers' Mike Dunleavy follows through on the free throw that tied the score late in the fourth quarter. His next free throw won it.
The Pacers' Mike Dunleavy follows through on the free throw that tied the score late in the fourth quarter. His next free throw won it. (Evan Vucci/associated Press)
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By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 14, 2009

The morning following their fourth consecutive loss, the Washington Wizards boarded a plane Sunday to the West Coast for a four-game trip. The five-hour flight gave players and coaches plenty of time to consider questions about their fortitude in the wake of a second straight defeat in which the game appeared in hand.

Washington fell to Indiana, 114-113, on Saturday night after leading by six with 1 minute 22 seconds to play, then by four with 22 seconds left. Even when the Pacers pulled to 113-112 with 13 seconds to go, the Wizards' best player stood at the foul line moments later with an opportunity for redemption.

Two nights earlier against Boston, Gilbert Arenas missed a pair of free throws with 26 seconds to play that would have tied the score, and the Wizards lost by two, 104-102.

Then he did it again on Saturday.

"Might have been thinking about it," Arenas said. "I don't know, thinking about the last game's free throws."

Arenas finished with 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds for the fourth triple-double of his career, but his errant free throws with six seconds to play set the stage for Indiana's improbable win.

"He's the man. He has to make those plays," Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said of Arenas, who has missed eight of his last 13 free throw attempts.

The Pacers' T.J. Ford drove to the basket on the subsequent possession, and his shot was blocked out of bounds as the buzzer sounded. After reviewing the play, officials determined 0.5 of a second should be put back on the game clock.

From underneath Indiana's basket, Earl Watson inbounded to Mike Dunleavy Jr., who went up for a shot that DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood contested. Officials called a foul against Haywood, but again the horn signaled the apparent end to the game.

"Catch, come down and then get fouled in the act of shooting seems tough," said Haywood, who had six points, nine rebounds and five blocks. "I definitely have a strong opinion on it. Really can't speak on it. You know how [NBA Commissioner] David Stern is, real tough on criticizing his referees."

After a review of the final sequence, officials put 0.1 of a second on the clock, and Dunleavy went to the foul line. He made the first to tie the score before the Wizards called a 20-second timeout. Then Dunleavy made the second foul shot, and Washington used another timeout.

JaVale McGee caught the inbounds pass and launched a shot from near midcourt that bounced off the rim as time expired.

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