Mason's 25 Haunts Old Team
Spurs 98, Wizards 67
Sunday, February 22, 2009; Page D03
Last season, Roger Mason Jr. helped the Wizards squeeze out 43 wins despite a rash of injuries. The Washington native and former University of Virginia star believes he could have helped them again had the team re-signed him last summer.
Instead, after the Wizards committed their resources to retaining Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, Mason put his name on a two- year, $7.3 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs and last night, he was back at Verizon Center to torture his former team.
In leading the Spurs to a 98-67 victory, Mason scored 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, made five three-pointers and added five assists.
"I think I would've made a big impact," Mason said. "But you never know what can happen. That's just the confidence I have and I'm just happy I'm having an impact on this team."
Is he ever.
Mason has hit four game-winning shots for the Spurs (37-17) and has been crucial in helping the team weather injuries to Manu Ginóbili, who has missed 16 games and is expected to miss another two to three weeks with an ankle injury.
The Wizards, meantime, saw their two-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 13-43 with one of their worst performances of the season. The 67 points were a season low, they shot a paltry 33.3 percent while missing all nine of their three-point attempts and were shredded defensively.
"Anything that you use to justify a performance like tonight comes out as an excuse," said Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott, who took much longer than usual to emerge from his office and address the media. "We had a bad night and didn't play well."
One night after hustling their way to a win over a flat New Jersey Nets squad, the Wizards simply couldn't match the brutal efficiency of the Spurs, who created open shot after open shot with Tony Parker's dribble penetration, Tim Duncan's post-up game and shooters like Mason, Matt Bonner and Michael Finley.
The Spurs are the most efficient three-point shooting team in the league and only contributed to that distinction by making 13 of 27 long-range shots last night against one of the worst perimeter defenses in the league.
Finley, who finished with 19 points, made four threes in the first half while Mason made two and Bonner one to help the Spurs build a lead as large as 19 points.
"I think he plays a larger offensive role for that team than he did for us last year," Tapscott said of Mason before the game. "With Ginóbili hurt, obviously that role expands even more . . . There isn't a guy here in our locker room who doesn't pull for him, with the exception of tonight of course, because he is the consummate professional and a terrific guy. He presents a problem for us. We know that he's going to hit some shots and we have to find him every time."
The Wizards, who couldn't afford to sign Mason and remain under the luxury tax threshold after signing Arenas and Jamison, didn't find Mason often enough.
By the time he stroked his fifth long-range shot to give the Spurs a 76-56 lead late in the third quarter, fans all over the arena were standing and cheering for Mason.
The Spurs shot 50 percent from the field and their 37 field goals were a result of 26 assists. Washington's 67 points were the fewest allowed by the Spurs this season.
Caron Butler led the Wizards with 24 points, but one night after all five starters scored in double figures for the first time all season, it took until the fourth quarter before a fifth Wizard scored at all.
When the Wizards managed to get back into the game after halftime, the Spurs responded, and the outside shot was their weapon of choice.
The Wizards drew to 54-46 in the third, but consecutive three-pointers by Mason gave the Spurs a 20-point lead.
"The beautiful thing about free agency is you're able to make a choice," said Mason, who needed 50 tickets for friends and family. "[The Wizards] made the choice very easy. I feel very blessed that I've had the opportunity to play for this team."