Wizards Trying Not to Lose Faith After Raptors Pulled Off a Miracle
Washington Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan looked tired after a brief practice at Verizon Center yesterday afternoon, the product of a mostly sleepless night spent replaying the image of Toronto Raptors guard- forward Morris Peterson making a miraculous, game- tying three- pointer at the end of regulation Friday night.
The shot capped a bizarre sequence that included Wizards center- forward Michael Ruffin trying to heave the ball into the air in an attempt to take time off the clock after he intercepted a long inbounds pass with 1.1 seconds remaining. However, the ball slipped out of Ruffin’s hand and fell to the waiting Peterson, who scored from 31 feet.
That forced overtime, in which the Raptors seized momentum and pulled out a 123- 118 victory that dropped the Wizards ( 38- 33) into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The task Jordan faced yesterday was trying to get his team refocused on this afternoon’s game at Milwaukee.
“ We’ve won some like that,” Jordan said. “ Look, I hate losing. It’s a burden, it was tough, but it also challenges you to stay strong and come back the next day and talk to your team. How do you keep them upbeat? That’s the challenge. That’s the fun part. That’s the decisive part. How do you respond?”
Jordan’s pre- practice address focused on how the Wizards responded to Ruffin’s mistake and Peterson’s shot.
“ Seeing a shot like that has to take something out of a team,” guard DeShawn Stevenson said. “ Seeing that happen when you’ve got a win and there’s no time on the clock, it takes out a lot.”
With 11 games remaining and a playoff appearance all but guaranteed, Jordan wants his team to take a lesson from Friday’s loss.
“ You can’t be stunned,” Jordan said. “ You have to get it out of your system quick. It’s almost like the analogy of the defensive line standing there waiting for the offensive huddle to break, like they are saying, ‘ We’re ready.’ That’s why I tried to get my team to go to half court early ( at the start of overtime) as if to say, ‘ We’re going to make our stand right here.’ That’s what you want to see.”
Jordan and several players defended Ruffin, whose defense on all- star Chris Bosh was a key to the Wizards erasing a 13- point first- half deficit. Ruffin never has been a high- profile player during a seven- season NBA career, but his mistake was replayed on highlight shows all night, ensuring that he’ll be remembered for a long time.
“ If it wasn’t for Ruff, we wouldn’t even had been in that situation,” forward Antawn Jamison said. “ He did a phenomenal job defensively on Bosh and helped us get back in the game. It’s just one of those things where something funny happened. He was trying to get the ball in the air and kill the clock but it slipped out of his hands and the guy made an amazing shot. Nothing you can do.”
Jordan is considering making a lineup change for today’s game against the Bucks ( 25- 46). Center Brendan Haywood, who has started 49 games this season, has totaled 3 points, 12 rebounds and 0 blocks in the last four games and played only 12 minutes Friday night. Jordan said he never considered going back to Haywood after pulling him following a brief 41- second stint at the start of the fourth quarter.
Haywood seldom hides his displeasure when taken out of a game, and he didn’t Friday night. He spent the fourth quarter and overtime in his seat, neither cheering for nor greeting teammates as they cycled in and out of the game. Haywood declined an interview request following practice yesterday.
“ Maybe we make a change, maybe we don’t,” Jordan said. “ We need someone to be playing at a high energy level and we need to see that starting [ today]. There will be some dialogue between the coaches and respective parties and we’ll make that decision.”
Jordan ruled out starting Darius Songaila, so that would leave Etan Thomas, who made 21 starts at the beginning of the season, or Calvin Booth, who has made one start this season. Booth briefly left Friday’s game with a dislocated finger but returned to the bench and will be available today.
Raptors swingman Morris Peterson watched his game-tying 31-foot heave find pay dirt against the Wizards on Friday night.