Nobody is perfect in the clutch. Even the most hallowed crunch-time performers have fallen short from time to time, so we shouldn't get bent too far out of shape after a tough loss like the one we saw last night. The problem, as we all know, is that losses like these are not random outliers, they are the norm. Sure, some of these recent losses can be blamed on bad officiating or just bad luck, but you can't lose 6 games in a row by less than five points without questioning the ability of the team to deliver in critical moments.
An optimist can argue that the law of averages dictates that the Wizards are due for some close victories to balance out this stretch of close losses. While that may be true, I would also point out its better to avoid these situations altogether. If you don't want to get into a situation where the game hangs in the balance and the game could go either way, put them away sooner. I would rather be good than lucky.
"It's frustrating, especially for me because I live for moments like this," said Arenas, who blamed himself for four of six losses in this slide. "The team has been behind me since we started and I feel like I'm letting them down right now -- especially when they're so used to the glory days. At the end of the day, you've got to take your bumps and your bruises. I can't hit every game winner. It all evens out. One day, I'm going to start hitting them again." Right now, it doesn't matter who hits the shot, so long as somebody does. And, the Wizards have yet to find anyone -- other than Earl Boykins -- to play fourth quarter closer/hero. And, that's really a shame.
If I hadn't watched it myself, I wouldn't have believed it. That entire final sequence, that is. The what-the-Frahm! turnover on the sideline inbounds play that gave Caron Butler the ballin the open court. The loose ball foul on Tyreke Evans that let the Wizards get within one point. And, of course, the brilliant steal in isolation -- plus the two sunk free throws -- which iced the game.
The Kings finished with two fewer victories than the 19-win Wizards and got the fourth spot in the draft while Washington was awarded the fifth spot. Sacramento used that pick to take Memphis point guard Tyreke Evans. The Wizards traded their pick to Minnesota for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. So far only one team has begun to see a return on their investment and has begun to turn things around. That team is not the Wizards, who on Wednesday night suffered yet another heartbreaking loss, this time 112-109 to Evans and Kings at ARCO Arena.
This was the moment that could have signified Gilbert Arenas’ resurgence. He was flush with 33 points on 10/22 shooting and had the ball in his hands with the seconds ticking away and the majority of viewers expecting a dagger by Gil. But as he made his move – the same move he had killed the Kings with all night – there was something else in the cards for this evening. Instead of an Arenas resurgence, we saw Tyreke Evans’ emergence. Evans saw the same crossover move that was destroying Sacramento coming at him and instead of being consumed by it he consumed it. It isn’t registered as a steal because Arenas fouled him before Tyreke could take possession of the basketball but we all know that it was the steal of the game. Tyreke Evans is going to take a lot of things from NBA players as the years go by. He’s going to take hardware and accolades from them (you’re on notice, Brandon Jennings). He’s going to take playoff wins and maybe a title if he’s lucky. He’s going to take a lot of pride away from guys with huge egos. And it all started when he took the win from Gilbert Arenas’ hands.
"I'm making progress every day. The team is waiting for me to kick it on, and I'm getting back there," said Arenas, who is averaging 20.5 points, 6.9 assists and 3.7 turnovers. "Every day I'm learning something new. I'm learning my game." Arenas said he steadily is regaining his confidence and timing. "I'm close to that. It's just taking a bit for me get my clutch shot back," he said. "It just takes clutch shooting down the end. You can't practice making big shots."
The Wizards went on a 20-9 run over the six minutes and closed within 109-108 when Caron Butler stole the ball from Kings reserve Beno Udrih and dunked with 17 seconds remaining. Antawn Jamison quickly fouled Udrih, who missed 1 of 2 free throws, setting up the final demoralizing sequence. Arenas said that he was trying to use a crossover dribble to get by Evans, with the hope that he could get a layup or an easy jumper for Jamison (30 points) if Nocioni approached. "I'm right there. I'm feeling the juice," Arenas said. "I felt being back in my old self. Trying to dominate the end of the game and I was close."
Perhaps this team has no other choice but to let Arenas do his thing. If he's getting better with every game -- and his explosiveness seemed to find a new level down the stretch -- surely the Wizards won't lose every one of them. The telling sign of Agent Zero's confidence was the fist pump after Tyreke Evans (26 points) was called for the dead ball foul, which allowed the Wizards to pull within one and get the ball back again. But Evans got redepmtion and the best of Arenas at the same time, poking the ball free, getting fouled and hitting two free throws for the final margin. Butler's game-tying three going in and out was only fitting. Lastly, the unbiased announcing from the ESPN crew should've made it clear to those watching at home, the Wizards are in disarray, even if they came within a three-pointer of going to overtime. Wins may help provide a buffer from the brewing storm, but the foundation is starting to come unglued.
While I know Wizards fans are very discouraged right now, you have to look at it in the most positive light you can. While we have lost five games in a row we have put ourself in a good position to win the game each time. Luck has not been in our favor. But at some point the luck has to change, and at some point the silly calls that don't go our way, and the turnovers at the end of the game have to correct themselves and even out. Until then, we can't ask for more than our two top stars scoring 30 each and our team going 23-26 from the line, and 41-95 from the field.
Washington? Pressing so hard. Losing so many close ones, and you just have to wonder if something is either going to crack, or if Flip Saunders is going to lose this team for the rest of the year. Few people appreciate Flip's knowledge of Xs and Os like I do, but he doesn't exactly have the best history of righting ships, in-season. And while I know it's a long season, with a start like this, you have to wonder what Washington's next move will be.
Arenas scored 13 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and Antawn Jamison had 30 points and eight rebounds for Washington, which has lost six straight games by a combined 14 points. "I’m a big guard in this league, but going up against him I felt little tonight," Arenas said. "It was a great pick up for Sacramento."
Gil: "This is the fourth loss under my belt. I personally lost it at the end." [via @MikeJonesTWT]
Ownership of a loss. "It’s about time" or a step in the right direction? The good news is that every game brings another chance to turn the corner.
After the game, the frustration in the locker room was evident. Brendan Haywood, who usually always has something to say, said "I have nothing good to say. Leave me alone," when reporters walked up to him.
Last night, the Wizards put their futility in the record books. With a three-point loss to the Sacramento Kings, the Wizards have now lost six consecutive games by four points or less -- tying the 1976-77 Phoenix Suns for the most ever.