WASHINGTON - The Washington Wizards' season has been too sad to label any particular defeat the most heartbreaking, but last night's 103-99 overtime loss to the New Jersey Nets was especially deflating.
The Wizards (23-52), in their first home game after a five-game Western swing, surrendered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Nets, scoring just one basket in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
"We just weren't good enough in the end to win the game," said Washington coach Eddie Jordan, a former Nets assistant. "We're just not G-O-O-D enough to make the plays. That's it. We're not good enough. We have a lot of heart to play hard, but we're just not talented enough to make plays at the end of the games."
The Wizards lost their eighth straight to the Nets, dropping their record against the Atlantic Division to 1-20, with 10 straight losses against a collection of teams that has produced one squad, New Jersey, with a winning record this season.
The Wizards missed a golden opportunity to defeat the banged-up Nets (43-31) who were playing without All-Star point guard Jason Kidd (knee). In addition, forward Kenyon Martin played just one half before resting his ailing knee.
The Wizards had more than a few bumps and bruises, too, as Kwame Brown missed the game with a sprained left ankle, to add to the injury absences of Juan Dixon, Jarvis Hayes and Christian Laettner, who was placed on the injured list before the game with back spasms.
Most of the Wizards' shortcomings last night were mental more than physical, as they had just one assist in the second half and missed eight of their last 20 free throws after making 20 of their first 21.
In addition, Jerry Stackhouse, who was moved into the starting lineup because of the crush of injuries, was ejected late in the first quarter, drawing a pair of technicals within 25 seconds after getting whistled for his third personal foul.
In regulation, after Gilbert Arenas missed a shot in the lane with about 50 seconds to go and the Wizards leading by three, Larry Hughes inexplicably tossed up a follow shot that hit nothing, rather than running time off the clock.
The Nets' Richard Jefferson came down the floor and hit a three-pointer from the right wing to tie the score with 39 seconds left.
"It's very frustrating," Hughes said. "I had a play that probably could have ended the game. I just didn't think [Arenas' shot] hit the rim. I knew the shot clock was low, and we ended up turning the ball over."
Washington went without a basket in the final 4:05 of the fourth quarter and stayed cold in overtime, making one basket - an Etan Thomas dunk - in the first 4:40 of the period.
Trailing by four points, the Wizards' Mitchell Butler hit a three-pointer with 18 seconds left, but the Wizards failed to grab a rebound off a missed free throw by Kittles. Lucious Harris was fouled and hit two foul shots with 13.2 left to seal the Nets' win.
Arenas had a game-high 29 points and Hughes had 22 with a season-high 13 rebounds, but the pair combined to take 47 of Washington's 85 shots, making just 15.
Next for Wizards
Opponent: Minnesota Timberwolves
Site: Target Center, Minneapolis
When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WTEM (980 AM)