Washington Wizards edge New Jersey Nets, 81-79

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 30, 2010; D04

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Before the Washington Wizards played the New Jersey Nets on Friday, Antawn Jamison was asked how his team could get up for a 4-40 squad. Jamison smiled and said, "Look at our record."

The Wizards have had a difficult season, filled with losses and off-court distractions -- including the rest-of-the-season suspension of Gilbert Arenas, which was handed down on Wednesday -- so they aren't feeling sorry for anyone else these days.

But they were feeling pretty good after Earl Boykins came around a Jamison screen and made a 16-foot jumper with 0.4 of a second remaining as the Wizards snapped a four-game losing streak with an 81-79 win. Boykins finished with a team-high 15 points in a game where the Wizards failed to have any starters score in double figures.

It was the first time in the franchise's 49-year history that it won a game without a starter scoring at least 10 points.

After his game-winning basket, Nick Young ran to hug Boykins and Andray Blatche shoved him as Boykins shoved back, giggling. "The game wasn't over," Boykins said he told them, recalling how the Wizards lost to Indiana earlier this season with less than one second remaining.

But when Nets guard Jarvis Hayes's final desperation shot hit the side of the backboard, the Wizards (15-30) were able to celebrate a win that wouldn't have been possible without some solid bench production from Boykins, Blatche, Young, Fabricio Oberto and DeShawn Stevenson, who combined to score 43 points.

Blatche had 14 points and Young, who was on the inactive list the previous game against the Los Angeles Lakers, added 10. Blatche said Stevenson brought the reserves together before the game and told them they had to play better.

"He said, 'We got to come out like dusty dogs, go out there and go to work, fight, no matter what the situation is,' " Blatche said.

They helped the Wizards avoid what would've been another deflating loss, leading the team back from a 12-point first half deficit, on a night when center Brendan Haywood said the starters were "in a funk."

"Our starters gave us really nothing," Coach Flip Saunders said. "I don't know what it is. I'm sure there are a lot of distractions. Three of our starters are the ones that everybody talks about as far as trades."

ESPN.com reported on Friday that the Wizards were rebuffed when they offered Haywood to Portland in exchange for Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum. Caron Butler and Jamison have also been mentioned in trade rumors, but Jamison said that has not become a distraction: "After what we've been through -- trade talk, that's like throwing a rock into a pond."

Mike James was preparing to separate tickets for family and friends before the game. As he glanced down at the tickets, he noticed that a picture of Arenas adorned the glossy cover. The Wizards improved to 4-9 without Arenas and were already prepared to move once he received an indefinite suspension on Jan. 6. But Arenas's presence continues to loom only two days after Commissioner David Stern suspended him for the remainder of the season after he brought four handguns to the locker room in a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton.

"It's tough to go through this," James said. "We're like one big fraternity and when one of our brothers go down, we all feel it."

Before the game, Saunders said that not much had changed for the Wizards, "but I think over the long haul, you try to get some normalcy." That is a challenge after dealing with a potentially dangerous encounter between Arenas and Crittenton. In some ways, the language surrounding the normal routine has changed. When a reporter asked Saunders about the morning shoot-around, Saunders corrected him and said, "Walk-through."

Jamison had just nine points and appeared to aggravate his right shoulder injury as he came up grimacing after getting his shot blocked in the third period. He immediately went to the bench, where head athletic trainer Eric Waters worked with him for a while.

He returned to the game, hitting a difficult hook shot to bring the Wizards with 77-76.

Haywood and Butler added three free throws to give the Wizards a 79-77 lead before Nets center Brook Lopez (17 points) tied the score on a layup with 13 seconds remaining.

Saunders drew up the final play for Boykins and he delivered.

"It wasn't anything special," said Boykins, who had been battling a left heel injury the past week. "I just enjoy winning. I'm not a guy who gets overly excited about it. When I get it, I expect to make it."

The Wizards defeated the Nets (4-41), who are on pace to win just seven games this season. But New Jersey also held a 34-22 advantage when rookie Terence Williams caught an alley-oop dunk.

The Wizards rallied back with a 16-4 run and tied the game at 38. Blatche would later hit an 18-foot jumper give the Wizards a one-point lead with 25.2 seconds left in the second quarter, but the Nets led 47-46 at halftime after Chris Douglas Roberts made a running jumper.

After his team shot just 42.1 percent and failed to score at least 20 points in three quarters, Saunders was just relieved to escape with a win.

"I don't think you're going to send that tape to Springfield," for the Hall of Fame, Saunders said with a laugh. "I don't think it's going there."

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