BROOKLYN — During a timeout in the first quarter of the Washington Wizards’ 106-101 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night, Martell Webster walked up to a referee, asked for the game ball and commenced to do a string of Harlem Globetrotter-worthy tricks.
The injured Wizard rolled the ball around his arms and chest and later flipped it in the air and caught it on his back. He smiled as he looked up to the referee for approval after each move, then scampered to his seat to continue watching a game that had the feel of a sideshow.
Neither team was at full strength. The Nets rested four starters while gearing up for the postseason and the injury-riddled Wizards were down to 10 healthy players and seeking to escape Barclays Center without losing any more.
The Wizards failed in keeping what was left intact. Starting center Emeka Okafor sprained his right ankle in the first quarter, hobbled to the locker room and never returned. And, after building an early 17-point lead, John Wall and the Wizards’ reserves failed to close out the Nets’ backups, suffering their fifth consecutive loss and seventh straight on the road.
“I don’t care if you’re a first-year player, if you haven’t played. I don’t care if it’s the second-to-the-last game or not. You’ve got to play with a little bit of pride,” Coach Randy Wittman said after the game. “We don’t play with a purpose. That fourth quarter, we just came out and played 12 minutes to get the 12 minutes over with. We lost all pride in defending, which is really discouraging. That’s what hurts a little bit.”
Though the game had several sloppy moments — a handful of air balls, several misguided passes and a few bumbling fast breaks — it still carried meaning for several little-used Wizards.
Among them was Trevor Booker, who got a shot in the starting lineup after Nene shut himself down for the final two games of the season because of a sore right knee and left foot. Booker scored 16 points with a game-high 13 rebounds in 33 minutes, his first double-double since a March 13 win over Milwaukee. With fans chanting, “Brooklyn! Brooklyn!,” Booker made a jump hook midway in the fourth quarter, then pressed his index finger against his lips to silence the crowd.
“I was feeling myself. Told them, ‘Calm down a little bit,’ ” Booker said. “We had them, even with all we had out and they had players out. Came out killing. We’ve got to learn how to close it out.”
The Wizards led for the first 43 minutes of the game but trailed 101-98 after Nets forward Mirza Teletovic drilled a three-pointer. Cartier Martin, who finished with 14 points in his second start of the season, answered with a three-pointer before former Wizard Andray Blatche made the go-ahead layup and Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor buried a three-pointer to drop the Wizards (29-52) to 24-24 with Wall in the lineup. The season will end on Wednesday in Chicago, giving the Wizards one last chance to reach 30 wins.
“I want to get to 30. We got no other goals. But we definitely want to get another win,” Wall said.
Wall finished the game with 18 points with 12 assists and had a scary fall in the fourth quarter, when he went for a loose ball and was undercut by Taylor. Wall twisted his right ankle and pounded the court before getting back up to finish the game.
“I lost this game for the team. I didn’t shoot the ball well. I didn’t close the game out down the stretch,” said Wall, who missed three free throws in the fourth quarter and shot just 5 of 19 from the field. “It was benches against benches and we gave the game away.”
The Nets, having already locked up the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, rested Deron Williams (left knee), Reggie Evans (left shoulder), Brook Lopez (back) and Joe Johnson (left foot). Blatche, who joined Brooklyn after Washington waived him through the amnesty clause last July, took advantage of the chance to play heavy minutes and get ample shots, scoring a game-high 20 points and adding 12 rebounds. As the final seconds wound down, Blatche got a chance to taunt his former team as he walked up to Martin and gleefully shouted, “Yeah! Yeah!”
“He was talking a little junk,” Martin said of Blatche. “He played well and I wish him the best in the playoffs.”
The Wizards jumped on the Nets early, taking a 30-13 lead when Booker drove around Blatche and made a finger roll. They led 56-46 when Kevin Seraphin made a foul line jumper but allowed the Nets to score the final four points of the half.
With Okafor down, Seraphin was given the chance to start the second half and he finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.
“With Nene and ’Mek out, gave me an opportunity, but I’m not satisfied with myself,” Seraphin said. “The most important thing is the win, so I could’ve played better.”