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Washington Wizards lose 12th straight, Andray Blatche benched

By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 24, 2010; D05

The ignominy of another lost season continued for the Washington Wizards, who led visiting Charlotte for much of the game on Tuesday night but wilted in overtime on their way to their 12th straight defeat, 95-86.

To make matters worse, Wizards Coach Flip Saunders benched starting forward Andray Blatche after he played just 7 minutes 31 seconds. Saunders said he pulled Blatche initially to discuss the player not getting back on defense but that Blatche refused to listen to the coaching staff.

Saunders said his assistants attempted to talk to Blatche about the situation multiple times but that Blatche's response was "he just didn't want to play."

"I'm disappointed. I'm the most disappointed I've ever been in 15 years with a player," Saunders said. "Most disappointed."

Blatche, who was unavailable to comment, has been the Wizards' most consistent player since the all-star break, averaging 23.2 points and 9.4 rebounds in that time. He also was shooting 51 percent in 18 games since the break and had logged four games with at least 30 points over that stretch.

After the game in a subdued locker room, teammates declined to talk in detail about the 6-foot-11 Blatche, whom they certainly could have used to help counter the Bobcats' 61-42 rebounding margin, including a 23-11 deficit offensively.

"You're curious. You wonder why he's not playing, but you can't really dwell on that," said forward Al Thornton, who made a three-pointer with 8.9 seconds left in regulation to tie it at 82 and force overtime.

But Gerald Wallace started the extra session by making two free throws to put the Bobcats ahead for good, and Raymond Felton followed with a driving layup Wizards center JaVale McGee blocked, but officials ruled goaltending. That sent Washington spiraling to its seventh consecutive loss at home.

The Wizards (21-48) are one loss from tying the longest losing streak in franchise history, and their next game is at Indiana on Wednesday night. Washington has won just one road game since Feb. 5, and that was against New Jersey, which has the worst record in the league.

Still, the loss, at least on this night, was a footnote to the growing rift between Saunders and Blatche, who was suspended earlier this season for one game for conduct detrimental to the team.

"Fifteen years, I've never seen anything like it, never," Saunders said. "He can be pissed at me or whatever, but you never leave your teammates hanging out to dry like that, no matter what, especially when you've lost 11 games in a row and you've got a chance to win a game. Uncalled for. We'll deal with it."

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