Wizards vs. Warriors: Washington's rally falls short, 106-102

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 3, 2011; 12:39 AM

Trevor Booker tracked down John Wall's missed three-pointer in front of the Golden State Warriors' bench, cocked the ball behind his head and hurled the ball across court to Nick Young. Young collected the ball more than 30 feet from the basket, squared up, shot, and watched it splash through the net.

Young's improbable three-pointer brought the Washington Wizards within one point with 6.9 seconds remaining and suddenly made their unlikely comeback from a 20-point second-half deficit a real possibility. The remaining fans at Verizon Center stood on their feet, applauding, waiting to see if the team really could rally and finally snap a six-game losing streak.

After Warriors guard Stephen Curry made two free throws, the Wizards had a chance to tie the score. Wall found Young at the top of the key, but Young passed on his first look, took two dribbles to the right and shot a long jumper that was about two feet to the left, skimming the bottom of the backboard as the Wizards had to settle for a 106-102 loss.

"Went far left," Young said after scoring a game-high 31 points. "Can't do nothing about it now. Can't take it back."

The Wizards (15-45) also couldn't take back a miserable third period in which Curry and his back-court mate Monta Ellis combined to score 15 points with six assists during a 23-12 run that gave the Warriors an 85-65 lead with 16 minutes left in the game. They were able to scrap back with Young getting dunks and hitting huge three-pointers, and with Booker attacking the glass and defending all five positions. When Young hit a three-pointer from 32 feet away, the Wizards were within 103-102.

"I'm proud of them, the way they fought back, the energy we had to have a shot to tie at the end is a credit to them," said assistant coach Randy Wittman, who filled in for Flip Saunders as he dealt with a medical emergency involving his ailing 90-year-old mother, Kay, in suburban Cleveland. "But we can't afford to dig yourself a hole and when you do dig yourself, you don't give up in the process. Give up, is maybe not the right word. But we just walk up the floor, feeling sorry for ourselves. There are swings in this league you've got to overcome. Just didn't have enough."

Curry and Ellis combined to 50 points as the Warriors (27-33) - the team that former Wizard Al Thornton plans to sign with after he clears waivers on Thursday - ended a four-game losing streak. Curry made seven of his first 10 field goal attempts and kept Wall off-balanced with his ability to penetrate, set up his teammates and step back to hit perimeter jumpers. He finished with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists as Wall again was outplayed by a quality opposing point guard.

"This young kid's getting his eyes open. Happens to all of them. I don't care if you're No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, the 17th pick in the NBA draft, or an undrafted free agent, this league is different than anything you'd ever imagine it to be," Wittman said. "It's a learning experience that John is going through. There is not an easy matchup in this league."

Wall finished with 14 points and just six assists and admitted that defending Curry was a challenge. "Steph is a sneaking crafty person that can shoot it," he said.

Andray Blatche had 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists and Josh Howard had 13 points in limited playing. But the Wizards rode Young down the stretch, as he scored 20 points in the second half, overcoming some pain that resulted from banging knees with Warriors forward David Lee (nine points, 16 rebounds) early in the third period. Young hit three three-pointers in the fourth period, including back-to-back three-pointers that brought the Wizards within seven points.

"I bumped knees, it kind of took me out of rhythm. I was thinking too much on my leg and how I planted," Young said. "I just kept fighting. [Assistant coach Sam Cassell] kept saying: 'You can't be hurt. You can't be hurt while you're playing well.' That's the confidence Coach Witt was also instilling in us all night."

Booker had 11 rebounds and seven points and helped the Wizards avoid any further humiliation. The Warriors outrebounded the Wizards 54-40 for the game, and that was with Booker grabbing seven in the fourth quarter, when both teams had 13 boards.

"I use my jumping ability. I went out and I was aggressive. I just tried to bring a lot of energy," said Booker, who had the huge offensive rebound late in the game and was stunned when Young decided to pull up from so deep. "But I'm glad he did, because he knocked it down."

Said Young: "I just felt good. I said, 'If I catch this, I'm going to shoot this, Book hit me. It felt good."

But on the last shot, it didn't and the Wizards have lost seven in a row and 16 of 18 overall.

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