The swagger was back for Caron Butler. In the second-half Butler scored 29 of his season- high 31-points including a baseline jumper from 19 feet that proved to be the game-winner. Butler’s shot with .5 seconds left was the answer to the Magic’s Rashard Lewis’ three –pointer that had put the Magic up 91-90 with 4.6 seconds remaining.
It's been a while since Butler was in a rhythm like he was in Orlando, where he shot 10 for 16 and scored 29 points in the second half. He was repeatedly blowing by Vince Carter, Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus for layups, or pulling up over them for jumpers. "We tried all three of our bigger wing guys on Butler," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He killed them all." "It was by far his best game overall," said Coach Flip Saunders, who met with Butler for about 15 minutes on Thursday. "We had a little talk in the weight room, just about leadership and taking charge and trying to be more of a vocal leader and not taking a step back, but taking a step forward. He was very receptive. He said he was going to relish the opportunity to step up and do that."
This loss is just Orlando's 5th at Amway Arena, and second that went down to the final shot, meaning the Magic could just as easily hold a 21-3 home record instead of its current 19-5 one. But that's besides the point: the Magic frittered a 21-point lead away against what had been the 14th-ranked team in the Eastern Conference (the win, coupled with Detroit's loss, moved the Wizards to 13th). Only the historically awful New Jersey Nets kept Washington from occupying the East's cellar. The Magic should be able to hold a lead of that size against any team, but especially one as bad as Washington. I'm speaking ill of the Wizards' season in general when I call them "bad." Against the Magic, they've been spectacular, with a 2-0 record and 2 come-from-behind wins.
In the first half Butler struggled to score just two points, going one for six in 17 minutes. In the second half his mid-range jumper looked fluid as everything from the outside started to drop. Butler exploded in the third quarter with 15 points including a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Wizards dominated the third quarter in large part due to his aggressiveness driving to the basket and efficiency at the free throw line. Down the stretch in the fourth quarter Butler was on point, scoring ten points in the last six minutes. His scoring binge was highlighted by a give-and-go slam dunk that gave the Wizards the lead with 1:07 remaining. After Rashard Lewis drained a three with four seconds left, Flip Saunders gave Butler the opportunity to finish the job. Butler responded by sinking a step-back dagger from the baseline. 18 feet worth of epic, last-second jumper later... CB3 finished with a season-high 31 points.
Butler and Foye had just two points each in the first half, but they combined to outscore the Magic, 49-41, in the second half. "I want to feel like this all the time," Foye said after scoring 22 points, with seven rebounds and seven assists. "This is the summers right here, when you're working and sore, you practice and you're tired, for moments like this."
The Wizards didn't even look like an NBA team in the first quarter, turning over the ball the first six times and falling behind 12-0 and 28-7. The Magic's offensive and defensive woes formed the perfect storm for a Wizards' comeback in the third. They gave up 39 points on 11-of-16 shooting (68.8 percent) and scored just 17 on 4-of-19 shooting (21.1 percent) to trail by seven heading into the fourth.
The Wizards looked like a team that wanted to be somewhere else at the start of the game, turning the ball over six times in the first 2:45. By then, Orlando was already up 10-0 and eventually pushed the score to 12-0 before Randy Foye hit a step-back jump shot. Washington coach Flip Saunders tried everything to get his team going early, calling two timeouts and arguing his way into a technical foul call. None of it worked as Washington made just five of 19 shots and had 10 turnovers in the first quarter and trailed 32-13 after one period.
Orlando was solid in every aspect of the game at this point, taking a 32-13 lead out of the first quarter. Certainly that pace could not keep up and human nature would let the Magic relax as the lead would hover around the 15-20 point mark. That is exactly how the second quarter played out. But things were not all rosy. The bench really struggled to maintain the same intensity the starters brought in the first quarter. The lead came down uncomfortably to 11 or 12 and Dwight Howard had to leave the game late in the second quarter to avoid picking up his third foul.
After Washington went ahead by nine on Butler’s jumper to start the fourth, the Magic answered with 11 straight points to go back ahead. The run was highlighted by a four-point play, with Jameer Nelson making a 3-pointer and getting fouled by Earl Boykins at the top of the key. The teams then matched shot for shot to the finish.
Best of Twitterville
Twitter / Rashad Mobley
so the wizards=strippers? @BulletsForever: @MrBjack: @MrMichaelLee thats whats frustrating. They tease you and then revert back to reality
Twitter / Michael Lee
I take back everything I said about blowing this thing up. . .Okay, maybe not all the way back. But this 21-point comeback is incredible
Twitter / wizznutzz
just flipped over to Wiz gam cuz we wanna experience CRUSHING DISAPPOINTMENT of comeback 1st hand.
Twitter / Ben Q. Rock
Of course Caron Butler has a down year, then comes back and kills the Magic.
Twitter / David Aldridge
Tuff Juice, where hast thou been?
Twitter / George V. Panagakos
Oh man well pins and needles but Washington is indeed the winner tonight in Orlando, down as many as 21 points with HUGE comeback win, 92-91
Twitter / Wizards Extreme
"Dagger" by Buck still ringing in my ear. good win by the Wiz kids. Tuff Juice on fuego
Twitter / Truth_About_It
Wow, that was the 1st time Caron Butler scored more than 30 points all year. You'd think it'd be different in such a season.