By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 2, 2010; D01
Five minutes into the Washington Wizards' game against the Boston Celtics, Antawn Jamison was dribbling the ball up the court when he made one subtle move that had Celtics forward Paul Pierce so off-balanced that he stumbled and fell on his back side. Jamison is noted for his awkward shot-making ability, but ball-handling has never been his strong suit. It appeared to be a sign that the Wizards would keep the Celtics backpedaling and wobbling all night.
"The handles," Jamison said afterward with a grin, "I like to show them off every once in a while. I made a good move."
But what happened after Jamison's surprising move was more indicative of how the night would go for Jamison and his team: He couldn't finish.
"I missed a layup that, 99 out of 100, I'm making," Jamison said after the Wizards lost, 99-88, to the Celtics before the ninth sellout crowd at Verizon Center this season.
For three quarters on Monday, the Wizards had the Celtics staggering, but they didn't bother to show up for the fourth period, when they shot 2 of 18 and were outscored, 25-10. Perhaps no player had a rougher period than Jamison, who missed all four of his field attempts and was called for five fouls in four minutes, including one foul when he was rolling over on the ground to avoid contact.
"I guess I was just a magnet for fouls there. I got pushed to the ground they called a foul on me," said Jamison, who missed 15 of 17 shots, finished with just eight points and eight rebounds and was forced to head to the locker room in the first half with a left knee injury. "One of those nights. When it rains it pours."
Caron Butler led all scorers with 20 points and Earl Boykins added 14 off the bench as the Wizards failed in their fifth attempt to win three consecutive games, something they haven't done since April 2008.
The Wizards (16-31) had won their first two games after Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton were suspended for the remainder of the season after bringing guns to the locker room in a dispute in late December.
But they couldn't take advantage of a hobbled Celtics team that arrived in Washington on a three-game losing streak, including a disappointing home loss to the Lakers the day before, and didn't have the services of the all-star Pierce (bruised left foot) in the fourth period.
Kevin Garnett led the Celtics (30-16) with 19 points and Rasheed Wallace scored eight of his 14 in the final period, as the duo combined to fluster Jamison and limit almost any dribble penetration. Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo both added 17.
Coach Flip Saunders also said that he thought the Wizards, who fell to 5-10 without Arenas this season, were on the wrong end of some questionable calls in the fourth period. "I thought the referring was inconsistent," he said. "The guys were just really frustrated, especially 'Tawn because of the no-calls, and I think it wore on us."
Poor ball movement was also to blame. After assisting on 13 of their 18 field goals in the first half, when they built a 52-48 lead, the Wizards only had two assists in the second half. Brendan Haywood credited the Celtics for disrupting the Wizards in the final period.
"I think of course you could see that our offensive execution was a little off. [The Celtics] turned the screws up defensively and I don't think we responded very well," Haywood said, adding that the Wizards shouldn't have expected many foul calls to go in their favor. "You're playing against the Boston Celtics, you're not going to get a lot of calls. You're going to go to the basket and if it's not basically a straight up, WWF body slam, you're not going to get a call. You got to play through it and find a way to get the win."
The Wizards led 78-70 when Butler made a difficult jumper over Brian Scalabrine with 38.9 seconds left in the third quarter, but little worked in their favor after that.
"That's a tough one to swallow," Butler said. "We all feel in this locker room, we let a big game slip away."
Added Jamison, shaking his head: "All in all, it was just a tough night -- offensively, defensively, getting my body right. I'll just get the kids, put them in the car and just try to forget about it. Watch some cartoons and laugh a little bit."