Wizards fall short in Toronto

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 21, 2010; D02

TORONTO -- Earl Boykins slithered into the lane, found just enough space to release a high-arching floater and got bumped just before the shot dropped. The usually stoic Boykins then flashed some rare emotion as he nodded and stomped toward the foul line, where new teammate James Singleton leaned all the way over to embrace the 5-foot-5 Boykins from behind and pat him on the chest.

Boykins made the free throw to give the Washington Wizards 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter and the new-look Wizards seemed poised to do what the previous incarnation couldn't: win that elusive third game in a row.

"I was just feeling that we were in position, that we were in control of the game," Boykins said of his post-shot strut.

The Wizards still seemed to be in control when Andray Blatche later hit a difficult fadeaway jumper to put the Wizards ahead by nine with 5 minutes 40 seconds remaining. But Jarrett Jack and the Toronto Raptors denied the Wizards on their sixth attempt at a three-game winning streak this season, using a 14-0 run over the next four minutes to win, 109-104, at Air Canada Center. Blatche scored a game-high 24 points but was unable to keep the Wizards (19-34) from losing their first game since the all-star break.

"We had this game," Blatche said afterward. "We just made a couple of mistakes down the stretch and they made us pay for it."

The first mistake was failing to contain Jack, a Maryland native who ignited the game-deciding run by taking advantage of the Wizards' poor pick-and-roll defense and attacking the rim. Jack scored 11 of his team-high 23 points in the final 5:09 and went on a personal 7-0 run with a three pointer and four free throws.

Hedo Turkoglu then got fouled by Al Thornton while making a reverse layup to give the Raptors a 101-100 lead. And after a fast-break dunk by Antoine Wright (19 points), Turkoglu drove and hit a shot off the glass to put Toronto ahead by five points. During that run, the Wizards missed nine shots and committed three turnovers, with Mike Miller contributing two of his game-high eight.

Josh Howard (17 points) missed two tip shots, Blatche, Randy Foye (14 points) and Thornton had seemingly easy layups swatted by Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani (18 points, four blocks). Blatche finally ended the scoring drought with an up-and-under move for a layup that brought the Wizards within 105-102, but with a chance to bring the Wizards closer, his reverse layup attempt rolled off the rim. "I made a great move to get open to get the rim the ball just didn't go in. I don't know how, I thought it was good," Blatche said.

On the Raptors' next possession, Jack missed a driving layup, but Turkoglu rebounded the miss and José Calderon made two free throws to secure the win.

"We should've had that game," Thornton said after scoring 10 points. "We couldn't make layups. We couldn't throw it in the ocean for some reason. It was a back-to-back, I guess, but that's not an excuse."

When these teams met on Dec. 4, they were headed in opposite directions. The Raptors arrived in Washington on a five-game losing streak, including a 42-point loss in Atlanta. The Wizards appeared to be a team that had finally turned the corner after winning four of five games. But after that meeting -- in which Turkoglu buried a difficult baseline jumper and Gilbert Arenas missed a potential game-tying layup in a 109-107 overtime loss -- the Raptors finally found their way and the Wizards sank into the abyss.

"From that time, they won the game and they kind of catapulted their season and we've been through, as you are very much aware, a lot of situations," Washington Coach Flip Saunders said.

The Raptors (31-24) were playing their second consecutive game without Chris Bosh (sprained left ankle), while the Wizards embarked on what Saunders described as a "new season" after the team welcomed an energetic group of newcomers who have injected some hustle and effort into the equation.

"As a coach, sometimes, you're frustrated when you don't know what kind of energy your team is going to bring," Saunders said. "When you go into a game and you know your team is going to give energy and is going to execute and do what you want to do, you can feel good going into a game, whether it's win or lose."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company