Wizards Win Battle of NBA's Worst Teams

By: AP. Email
By: AP. Email

Last place in the NBA was on the line - literally - when three officials, huddled around a replay screen, ruled that the tiptoe of Francisco Garcia's right shoe had barely grazed the 3-point arc.

The call: a 2-pointer. The Sacramento Kings guard, despite his
earnest pleas to the contrary, had not tied the game with 3.8
seconds left. The Washington Wizards still had a one-point lead,
and they added one more at the free throw line with 2.7 seconds
remaining to claim a 106-104 victory Sunday night.

"It's never happened to me before. Never," Garcia said. "I
always make sure at the end of the game my feet are behind the
line, but they were right there and they know what they were doing
and it was the right call."

On a night when many were preoccupied with the NCAA tournament,
the Wizards and Kings played a game that could be described as the
NBA's version of the NIT - with all due apologies to the NIT.
Washington won without making a field goal in the game's final 8
minutes, nearly blowing an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead.

Sacramento dropped to 0-26 against the Eastern Conference,
staying on course to become the first NBA team to go winless
against the other conference - in the same season that the Wizards
are closing in on becoming the first to go winless against its own
division. Washington's 16-51 record remains only marginally better
than the Kings' 14-52.

"We didn't do things right," said Wizards forward Antawn
Jamison, who scored 30 points. "But the most important thing is
that we got a win, and I'll take an ugly win over a pretty loss."

The matchup between lottery-bound teams was as much about
pingpong balls as basketballs, except for buzz about the college
game. There were empty seats aplenty at the Verizon Center at the
start of the not-very-anticipated duel, with tipoff taking place
just as the NCAA bracket was being announced. The seeds were
displayed on the scoreboard in the second quarter, and former North
Carolina star Jamison was asked about the Tar Heels' placing during
a halftime interview.

Of course, there was no way a game like this could have a tidy
ending. Garcia was sure he had made his 3-pointer, but official Eli
Roe immediately ruled otherwise, and the replay supported Roe's
call. Mike James then made the free throw that made the score
106-104. With one last chance to win or tie, Kevin Martin missed a
final 3-point attempt from near the top of the key at the buzzer.

Andray Blatche added 16 points, and Darius Songaila 15 for the
Wizards. Washington played without Caron Butler, who has a tight
left hamstring and will have an MRI exam Monday.

Martin scored 24 points, and Spencer Hawes had 20 to lead the
Kings, who were missing Bobby Jackson (broken left cheekbone) but
welcomed back Beno Udrih (out six games with a sprained right
foot).

Washington made 11 of its first 12 shots and set a season high
for points in a quarter with 37. The Wizards led by as many as 15
in the second quarter, and everyone was cheering when Juan Dixon
threw a length-of-court pass to rookie center JaVale McGee, who
somehow managed to score a basket off the backboard while being
hugged and spun around by Rashad McCants in an obvious attempt to
foul. McGee made the free throw for a three-point play.

But a Wizards lead is never a safe one. An 11-point halftime
advantage had evaporated by the time Jason Thompson made two free
throws with 1:43 to play in the third quarter, putting the Kings
ahead 83-82.

That was the only Sacramento lead of the game. The Wizards went
on a 15-3 run before the game got messy in the fourth quarter.
Hawes and Jamison were each whistled for a technical foul, and
Sacramento was even called for a rare lane violation on a free
throw.

Then came the suspenseful final minute that left the Kings still
at the bottom of the NBA pile.

"We definitely don't want to be labeled as the worst team,"
Hawes said. "There is still a lot to play for. We still have a lot
to prove."

Notes:

Jackson broke his cheekbone late in the 126-123 overtime
loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night and did not travel
with the team. He will be re-evaluated Monday. Udrih came off the
bench for the first time this season and had 10 points and seven
assists in 29 minutes. The starter at point guard was Garcia, which
gave the Kings their 21st different starting lineup of the season:
Garcia, Martin, Hawes, Thompson and Andres Nocioni.

The Wizards' 66 first-half points equaled their highest-scoring half of
the season.

The game was the second of six in a row against the East for the Kings. It was also the first in a four-game road trip.


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