Washington forward Caron Butler stepped in front of the errant inbounds pass and Sonics coach Bob Hill could only shake his head. He knew what was...
WASHINGTON — Washington forward Caron Butler stepped in front of the errant inbounds pass and Sonics coach Bob Hill could only shake his head. He knew what was coming.
In road loss after road loss the past two months, these are exactly the plays that have sunk his team. It's almost expected at this point.
Moments after a Wizards basket, Butler's steal and buzzer-beating three-pointer right in front of the Sonics' bench extended Washington's lead to nine points at the end of three quarters and effectively ended any hopes for that elusive Seattle road victory.
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Instead, the 118-108 defeat added yet another black mark to an increasingly frustrating season as the Sonics broke the franchise record for consecutive road defeats with 15.
“It's about playing winning basketball, understanding how much time is left, understanding how to be strong with the ball," Hill said. "That's experience. We played awfully hard. They are supposed to be the [top] team in the East and we were right there for a long time."
The Sonics (17-31) did appear in control midway through the third quarter.
They effectively contained Washington's All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas, holding the NBA's second-highest scorer (29.7 a game) to just 16 points. They had a 12-point lead with 7 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
But time and again during this road losing streak, the Sonics have struggled to finish games.
Butler (with a season-high 38 points), an All-Star this year for the first time, led the comeback as Washington put together a stunning 35-9 run to open up a 93-79 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
“It is human nature to run and hide and not be accounted for. Being a part of this team, we are all to blame here," said Sonics guard Ray Allen, who scored a game-high 29 points, but made just 11 of 27 shots. "Whatever I can do to make it better, I have to work on. It would be easier for me to separate myself from the situation, but we have to become more of a team and a closer-knit group."
With Arenas quiet and high-scoring forward Antawn Jamison out at least three weeks with a knee injury, it was the Wizards' secondary players who hurt Seattle the most.
Center Brendan Haywood scored a season-high 20 points and had 11 rebounds. Forward Andray Blatche, averaging just 7.1 minutes a game entering the night, added a career-high 14 points in 16 minutes of action.
“We just picked it up in the second half," said Arenas, who had nine assists for the Wizards. "At the end of the third period, Andray and Caron ignited the team and the rest of us just fed off their energy."
Hill wasn't happy afterward about the disparity in foul calls. Washington (28-19) attempted 41 free throws, enough to overcome 10 missed shots from the line. The Sonics shot just 17 free throws.
Forward Chris Wilcox added 24 points and seven rebounds for Seattle. Both Wilcox and forward Nick Collison (10 points, four rebounds) were whistled for five fouls and Allen and guard Earl Watson were both called for four.
The Sonics finished with 18 turnovers.
The road losing streak is bad enough, but the Sonics have lost five in a row overall and six of seven. Only three of those games were on the road. And it doesn't get any easier with a road game at Indiana (26-22) on Wednesday.
“I know we all want to win. There's no doubt about that," said Wilcox. "But sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper, especially in the fourth quarter."