Trevor Booker is known to go up and throw down with force whenever he has an opportunity to dunk. But after Booker received a pass inside from Emeka Okafor, Charlotte Bobcats guard-forward Gerald Henderson decided that he wasn’t going to surrender an easy bucket. Henderson met Booker at the rim, forcing a stunned Booker to hold back from a slam and the hesitation led to him getting his shot blocked.
“I didn’t think he was going to jump for that one,” said Booker, who wound up on his backside, looking around, wondering what happened.
The Wizards were more shocked by the end result – a 119-114 loss to the NBA-worst Charlotte Bobcats that featured several bizarre occurrences aside from Booker getting his dunk rejected.
Trevor Ariza, a trusty decision maker, threw two inbounds passes out of bounds – including one coming after a timeout – in the final 2 minutes 12 seconds. John Wall fouled out for the first time in his career. Jannero Pargo, whom the Wizards cut in November because he couldn’t hit shots, made three three-pointers and scored 11 points in the first half.
The Wizards shot 62.5 percent in the first half and still trailed at halftime after surrendering 63 points. And somehow the team that ranked sixth in the NBA in points allowed let a team that doesn’t average 93 points per game post the highest-scoring outing of any opponent this season.
When asked about why the Wizards struggled maintain their focus defensively, Okafor replied, “Defensively? You can’t use the word ‘defense,’ because it was non-existent. This is the most points we’ve given up all season. I guess, it was bound to happen when you have a defensive faux pas, it [stinks] that it happened right now.”
Coach Randy Wittman could sense that his team was in trouble from the start of the game, and not just because Bobcats center Bismack Biyombo welcomed Okafor back to where his career began when a thunderous slam. They were either confused or a step too slow as they allowed Henderson or Josh McRoberts to get inside for layups in the first half and consistently lost shooters in the second half.
“We didn’t play defense at all,” rookie Bradley Beal said. “We didn’t know what we were doing. We were switching on guys we shouldn’t have switched on. We weren’t denying, we weren’t contesting. Our defensive effort wasn’t good at all.”
Even with those slip ups, the Wizards still had a chance to pull out a win before they surrendered 12 unanswered points in the final three minutes. The Bobcats turned a five-point deficit into a 113-111 lead in just 71 seconds and when Wall tried to offer a response, he was called for a charge.
“I felt like it should’ve been a foul but they called an offensive foul and that kind of changed the game,” Wall said after scoring 25 points. “I feel I lost this game for us.”
Wall’s counterpart, Kemba Walker, drew the foul and then made a layup on the other end that proved to be the difference. Walker then intercepted Ariza’s inbounds pass and Henderson drilled a three-pointer that had Okafor doing a double-take at the scoreboard.
“I couldn’t tell you what happened. It just happened so fast, like, ‘Bam!’ I thought we had it, we were up five, then all of sudden, we were down six. I was like, ‘What? What!?!’ ”
The Wizards are 18-15 since Wall returned but he hasn’t been able to resolve their woes on the road. They are now 4-11 away from Verizon Center, with losses to the Kyrie Irving-less Cavaliers, a Timberwolves team that was missing Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko, Sacramento and Detroit. They have Phoenix coming up but cannot feel much comfort, even after drilling the Suns last Saturday by 22 points.
“I don’t know. I’ve got to figure it out with these guys,” Wittman said. “We don’t have a different mindset when we come on the road and you have to. You can’t play the same way at home as you do on the road. I can’t get ‘em right now to realize it. I’ve got to find a way to change their mindset.”