By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 10, 2010; D01
CHARLOTTE -- Caron Butler's three-point shot rattled around the rim and dropped and he whirled around toward the Washington Wizards bench after he forced Charlotte Bobcats Coach Larry Brown to call a timeout. Butler had just staged a one-man run, scoring seven consecutive points to tie the game, and appeared ready to bring back the Wizards as he did on Friday in Orlando. As he emerged from the huddle, Butler shouted to no one in particular, "The comeback kid, at it again."
And with 47.1 seconds, it seemed that the Wizards would complete the rally and record their second straight win when Butler drover around Flip Murray and kicked the ball out to Mike Miller in the corner for a three-pointer that gave them a one-point lead. Butler and Miller then laughed and slapped hands.
But the celebration was short lived, as the Bobcats scored the final three points of the game, with point guard Raymond Felton making a turnaround jumper with 1.9 seconds remaining to give the Wizards a 94-92 loss at Time Warner Cable Arena. Butler led all scorers with 23 points and Miller had 19, but the Wizards (17-33) were unable complete another dramatic comeback. They lost their 13th game this season by five points or fewer.
"That's how a lot of it's been," Coach Flip Saunders said. "Our record is not an indication of the type of games that we've played and how hard we're competed."
They have lost two games this season to Charlotte, which was led by Stephen Jackson's 22 points. Antawn Jamison (16 points) missed two shots in the final 32.9 seconds, including a runner that bounced off the front of the rim as time expired.
"It's tough to put yourself in position to have a game like that and come up short," said Jamison, who was fined for missing practice in Orlando on Monday after failing to make his flight out of Miami, where he watched the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl. "It's frustrating because you wish the guys could experience all the hard work they put into the game and get some kind of reward from it instead of singing the same old song."
After Butler tied the game at 81, Murray followed with a driving layup, but the Wizards got a lucky break when Andray Blatche shot an air ball in the lane but was rewarded by a foul call. Blatche chuckled as he stepped to the line and made both free throws to tie the game. "Nobody touched me," Blatche said afterward.
Butler followed with a jumper to give the Wizards the lead and later found Blatche in the right corner for a three-pointer that put the team ahead 88-85.
The Bobcats went ahead 91-89 on a driving basket by Boris Diaw, but the Wizards regained the lead, 92-91, on Miller's three-pointer. Murray then drove into the lane and drew a foul on Jamison, but he made one of two free throws to tie the game. On the next possession, Jamison drove the ball inside but his shot attempt hit nothing but the backboard, setting up the final shot for Felton. Felton dribbled around a screen, then turned and made a fallaway jumper. He then slapped hands with Jackson.
The Bobcats (25-25) entered the game as one of the pleasant surprises in the Eastern Conference and they snapped a three-game losing streak to maintain their hold on the seventh spot.
"The break would've been much better with a victory," Randy Foye said. "Now we've got to sit around and think about this."
The first half of the season didn't go nearly as well as the Wizards had hoped, with the team dealing with the death of owner Abe Pollin and a disturbing locker room gun incident that led to season-ending suspensions for Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton. They also woefully underachieved on the floor with a roster that cost more than $79 million, suffering five losing streaks of four or more games and never winning more than two in a row.
The Wizards arrived in Charlotte having won three of their previous five games, including an impressive victory in Orlando, where they came back from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Southeast Division-leading Magic 92-91 as Butler buried a 19-foot jumper with five-tenths of a second remaining on Friday.
For the second time in as many games, the Wizards were unable to leave immediately afterward because of inclement weather back home. But while they were forced to spend the evening in town, Saunders and several players and coaches simply booked flights to their respective destinations from Charlotte on Wednesday morning.
"Everyone always deals with something. That's just something we had to deal with," Miller said. "Injuries, travel, something always happens. The teams that win are the ones that go through adversity."
Butler, Jamison and Brendan Haywood have been mentioned in numerous trade rumors, fueling speculation that this could have been the final game for this group as it is currently constructed. The Wizards have just one more game before the Feb. 18 trade deadline - next Wednesday at Verizon Center against Minnesota. But after the blizzard postponed their game against the Hawks last Saturday, Saunders joked that the weather may not allow it. "We're never going to play another home game. They are trying to keep us away with the snow," Saunders said with a laugh.