WASHINGTON - For the first time all season, the Washington Wizards played a game in the afternoon yesterday, to mark the Martin Luther King Day holiday.
But at the end of yesterday's 101-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks before a generously listed crowd of 15,633 at MCI Center, one thing was abundantly clear: The Wizards can lose just as easily during daylight hours as they have at night.
For a fourth straight game - and for the second time against the Bucks in a week - the Wizards mustered an inspired fourth-quarter comeback against a superior opponent, after falling behind in the third, only to fall short, losing their seventh straight and their 22nd in the past 25.
In this case, Washington (7-32) whittled a 15-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter down to six, then trailed by 12 with 5:30 to go, and sliced it down to four points with 1:38 remaining, but couldn't close the deal.
"That's the story of their season," said Milwaukee guard Sam Cassell (Dunbar). "Teams get up on them early and they fight back, especially in this arena. We got up 12 points with five minutes to go and they made the game turn ugly. They trap and we get lackadaisical and they get themselves back in the ballgame."
The Bucks (22-15) blistered the Wizards from three-point range, hitting 10 of 17, while Washington hit just four - all in the second half, all by Chris Whitney.
Milwaukee reserve guard Lindsey Hunter, one of five Bucks in double figures, had 20 points, including six three-pointers. Glenn Robinson had 22, and Ray Allen also had 20. Juwan Howard paced Washington with 27 points.
Forward Tyrone Nesby, who came to the Wizards from the Los Angeles Clippers in a November trade, got into a shouting match with Leonard Hamilton during the first half that could be heard by spectators behind the Washington bench, after he was benched for poor play four minutes into the game.
The discussion became so animated that Hamilton ordered Nesby to the locker room, with assistant coach John Bach eventually beckoning for the security detail seated behind the bench to escort Nesby off the floor. Nesby, who did not immediately leave the bench, did eventually go to the locker room with assistant coach Larry Drew.
Club officials immediately said that his thumb was ailing. Nesby, who sprained his left thumb against New York last week, did return later with his thumb taped, but was benched for the entire second half, after meeting with Hamilton at halftime.
Hamilton characterized the blowup as "a misunderstanding," and likened it to a family squabble. For his part, Nesby, who has started 20 games since the trade, said he was disappointed at not playing in the second half but added the matter was "squashed" and had been put behind them.
He added, however, "It's only so much that's being changed around here and it's being changed slowly, not as quickly as I seem willing to get changed. It was a disagreement. We left it alone. We're not going to continue this. It happened today. We're going to end it today and get ready for tomorrow."