The Washington Wizards were milliseconds away from ending their season long losing streak, but a late Martell Webster basket in overtime was waived off, as time had expired, giving the Atlanta Hawks a 101-100 win and the Wizards their tenth straight loss to open the year.
Despite having a close game for most of the second half, a couple of costly fouls from Nene, who made his first start of the year, allowed the Atlanta Hawks to tie the game at the free throw line. Nene fouled Devin Harris, who proceeded to hit both free throws and tied the game at 90 with three seconds left. The Wizards were unable to score on their next possession and went to overtime after blowing yet another fourth quarter lead.
Once in overtime, Washington went up by as many as four-points, before Atlanta made a late push with less than a minute left. Despite missing all four of his overtime free throws, Al Horford benefited from a strong set of offensive boards, allowing the Hawks to convert both possessions for four-points, tying the game at 98. Following the game tying deuce, Kevin Seraphin came down the court and hit a clutch midrange two to give the Wizards a 100-98 lead, but the Hawks were no done yet. Kyle Korver, who killed the team all night with five three-pointers and 16-points, drove down the court and hit a huge jumper from three-point land giving the Hawks a 101-100 lead with just over one second left on the clock.
Of course, this is the Wizards you are talking about, so losing by a clutch three is not painful enough.
Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman used a timeout following the three and moved the ball to the offensive side of the court. After the inbounds pass, a missed hook by Seraphin bounced off the rim, which should have all but ended the game. Webster got the rebound though, and gave the ball a last millisecond heave, putting the ball in the basket and sending the Wizards running off the court with what they thought was their first win of the season.
What the shot really was, was a little too late. Upon further review, it was clear ball did not leave Webster’s hands before the clock expired and the Wizards were sent home with yet another painful loss.
One bright spot on the night was Nene. Washington’s injured center made an immediate impact in the lineup, scoring on his first possession. The 6’11” center from Brazil, acquired last March from the Denver Nuggets in a three-way deal, provides a veteran presence for a team lacking in real NBA experience. He put up 12 for the game and really helped the Wizards stay competitive with Atlanta in the second half, providing a sense of urgency and energy, even despite two costly late fouls.
Even though Nene did not have a great night on the boards, it was one area the Wizards did not struggle with for most of the game. As a team, the Wizards out rebounded the Hawks by 31, led by Trevor Ariza’s career night. Ariza had 11 rebounds on the defensive side of the court and added four more on the offensive side to give him a career high 15. The next closest Wizard to him in rebounding was Seraphin who had 10 of his own, which in addition to his 21-points gave him a double-double on the night. Even though the team had two players in double figures, the game ultimately came down to the team’s inability to grab a defensive rebound in overtime.
In addition to their failure to rebound, Washington’s failing, or deciding to not, cover players beyond the three point arc cost the team repeatedly throughout the game. Even though the team hit the same number of threes in the first half, four, Atlanta’s seemed to come during big runs and to retake leads. That theme would continue in the second half and overtime, as the Hawks would only hit nine total triples, compared to the Wizards’ seven, but one of them gave the team the win and the other one gave the Hawks back momentum.
It is yet another tough loss for a franchise full of them over the last four years.
At 0-10, the Wizards are now staring the elusive 0-18 mark set by the New Jersey Nets in the face. With the Wizards only facing teams above .500 for the next seven games, their next best shot at winning a game is this Saturday against the Charlotte Bobcats, who have been playing very good basketball lately and are the weakest of the winning teams. If they cannot win Saturday, the Wizards could be in for a rough ride, as it will be more than two weeks until they play another “weak” team in the New Orleans Hornets. If they do not win before that, Washington would need a win against the Hornets to avoid tying the NBA record for worst start to a season in history.