Washington Wizards edge New Jersey Nets, 81-79

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

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 made a pull-up 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.

After his game-winning basket, Nick Young ran to hug Boykins and Andray Blatche shoved him as Boykins giggled. That trio was responsible for helping the Wizards (15-30) avoid what would've been another deflating loss in a miserable season.

The Wizards got 43 points from the bench, with Blatche scoring 14 and Young adding 10. Jamison had just nine points and appeared to aggravate his right shoulder injury in the third period as he came up grimacing after a collision. He immediately went to the bench, where head athletic trainer Eric Waters worked with him for a while. He returned the game, hitting a difficult hook shot to bring the Wizards with 77-76.

Brendan Haywood and Caron 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.

The Nets (4-41) entered the game on pace to win just seven games this season, but they were coming off their first win of the calendar year, snapping an 11-game losing streak with a 103-87 win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

The Wizards will host the New York Knicks on Saturday at Verizon Center.

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 played their 13th game overall without Arenas and were already prepared to move on 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, Coach Flip Saunders said that not much had changed for the Wizards, "but I think over the long haul, you try to get some normalcy." But 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 shootaround, Saunders corrected him and said, "Walkthrough."

Saunders added that although the Arenas suspension has brought some closure to one distraction, several others continue to surround the team. He said the Wizards "dominate" the Web site, http://www.hoopshype.com, which promotes trade rumors. ESPN.com reported on Friday that the Wizards were rebuffed when they offered center Brendan Haywood to Portland in exchange for Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum. "Those are other distractions that you have to deal with from an individual player standpoint."

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