Butler's last-second jumper caps Wizards' 21-point comeback and 92-91 win over the Magic
Saturday, February 6, 2010
ORLANDO -- One of the chief complaints about the Washington Wizards this season has been their inability to play for 48 minutes. They often take full quarters or halves off, creating insurmountable deficits and head-shaking frustration. The Wizards found themselves down by 21 points to the Orlando Magic just 10 minutes into their game on Friday night, with a sloppy, turnover-filled performance that had Coach Flip Saunders confused on the sideline.
"It looked like, 'Space Jam' the movie," Saunders said afterward. "We couldn't do anything. We were hitting [the ball] off our heads, off our elbows, off our feet, walking, couldn't get a shot off."
But in the most thrilling comeback in what has been a miserable season, Caron Butler scored a season-high 31 points, including a difficult baseline jumper with 0.5 seconds remaining, as the Wizards pulled out an improbable 92-91 victory at Amway Arena. And no Wizard was off target as they circled around Butler to pat him on his head and his back after he and Randy Foye carried the team to its second win this season against the Southeast Division-leading Magic.
Butler and Foye had just two points each in the first half, but they combined to outscore the Magic, 49-41, in the second half.
"I want to feel like this all the time," Foye said after scoring 22 points, with seven rebounds and seven assists. "This is the summers right here, when you're working and sore, you practice and you're tired, for moments like this."
Magic forward Rashard Lewis (12 points) appeared to crush the Wizards' hopes of a win when he drained a three-pointer from the left baseline with 4.6 seconds remaining, but Butler made a dribble shake to get separation from Matt Barnes and buried a 19-footer. He then ran down the floor and jumped into Foye.
"He was able to create space on virtually every shot right until the end," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said about Butler. "Great game by him."
The Wizards (17-32) defeated the Magic, 104-97, when they met on Jan. 8 at Verizon Center. It was an emotional night for the Wizards, who were playing their first home game after Gilbert Arenas was suspended indefinitely, and Mike Miller was returning to action for the first time in more than a month. The Wizards have just three wins against Southeast Division opponents this season.
"This is one of the top tier teams in the league," Butler said, "and to beat them twice; the first one, maybe alright they got lucky. But second one, in this fashion, in their home, shows that we're not a fluke and we're a good ball club."
The Wizards certainly didn't resemble a good ball club at the start. They didn't attempt a field goal for the first 2:57 of the game, committing six turnovers as the Magic (33-17) scored the first 12 points. They had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, with Brendan Haywood dribbling near the foul line before Dwight Howard (20 points, 18 rebounds) poked away the ball, dribbled up the court and knocked down a jump hook in the lane. Jameer Nelson followed with a three-pointer to give Orlando a 28-7 lead.
It appeared that the Magic could just put the game on cruise control, and they did, but the Wizards had a lucky bounce near the end of the first half. With 1.4 seconds left in the second quarter, Mike Miller threw a lob pass to JaVale McGee that Magic reserve Marcin Gortat batted to Antawn Jamison, who slapped the ball off the backboard and into the basket. The shot brought the Wizards within 50-35.
"It was a momentum swing," Butler said of Jamison's shot. "You go in at halftime and it's a little deflating for the other team. When everything possibly can go wrong and you're playing against a good team like the Magic and you're still in the game, you know you have a chance."
Butler and Foye combined to go 14 for 14 from the foul line and scored 34 of the Wizards 39 points in the third quarter, as the Wizards rallied to take a seven-point lead into the final period. Butler and Foye actually doubled the scoring output of the Magic, which scored just 17 points in the period.
Butler knocked down another jumper to give the Wizards a nine-point lead, but the Magic responded with an 11-0 run and took a 78-76 lead when Nelson made two free throws. Haywood made a free throw to give the Wizards an 85-84 lead and Butler and Lewis would trade baskets over the next few minutes.
Lewis made a short jumper to give the Magic an 88-87 lead. The Wizards worked the ball to Butler at the top of the key. He dribbled left, kicked the ball out to Foye, who whipped it right back to Butler for the dunk. Foye added a free throw to give the Wizards a 90-88 before Lewis knocked down his three-pointer.
But the Wizards had the answer in Butler. "I thought Caron was super aggressive offensively," Saunders said. "We've had many games like this, where we haven't showed character and we just really faded."
This wasn't one of them.
Wizards Note: The Wizards were unable to leave Orlando after the game on Friday night, with inclement weather in the D.C. area prohibiting them from flying. The team planned on leaving Saturday, when it hosts the Atlanta Hawks at Verizon Center at 7 p.m.
Saunders was unsure what time the Wizards would leave, but he expected the game to be played either way.
"Try to get out tomorrow morning. If we get in early, we'll play. Get in at 6 [p.m.], we'll play," he said. "We might have a midnight madness game, like college."