NEW YORK -- Drew Gooden walked off the floor in absolute disgust, shaking his head as nary a player for the Wizards could celebrate how they won Tuesday's game at Madison Square Garden.
Gooden, who didn't play in the second half, knew what he saw was unacceptable if the Wizards have any hope of turning their season around. Langston Galloway hit a big three-point shot to pull the Knicks 107-106 of the Wizards with 8.5 seconds left, which should've scared them enough to be at attentive on the final play. But Galloway was able to get a clean look from 25 feet as the buzzer sounded.
Fortunately for the Wizards (23-27), he missed or it would've forced overtime instead of a 111-108 victory.
Aside from blowing a 16-point lead, like they squandered a 19-point lead over the weekend in a loss at the Charlotte Hornets, the Wizards simply lack the attention to detail to close games.
"That's all on us. We got to at some point stand up and understand how to close games," said coach Randy Wittman, who instructed his team to foul to prevent the three-point heave from Galloway. "We did just about everything you could do wrong coming down the stretch instead of just playing solid. Going for steals, leaving open threes when that's all they need. ... It was a little ugly down the stretch."
After trailing 92-91 on a three-pointer by Galloway with 7:18 left in the game, the Wizards went on a 15-4 run highlighted by threes from Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and three consecutive jump shots from John Wall, including a three.
Then they came unraveled. Beal missed 3 of 4 foul shots in the final 39 seconds. After Wall hit his fourth consecutive free throws in the last seven seconds to keep the Wizards ahead by three -- neither team had any timeouts left -- the Knicks inbounded with 4.3 seconds left. Porter was supposed to foul Jose Calderon immediately on the inbound to prevent the three by Galloway at the end that failed. Wall tried to cover for him but failed to foul Calderon in time, who threw the ball ahead to Galloway. Jared Dudley made an attempt to run across the court when he saw the breakdown to challenge the shot but it was essentially a wide-open look from one of New York's better shooters.
It could've ruined an otherwise masterful performance by Wall (28 points, 17 assists, one turnover) and it remains head-scratching why such a disciplined team defensively has become so skittish and unreliable in clutch situations.
"Bad communication," Beal said in explaining the lapses. "I fell asleep a few times. We just weren't locked in at the end of the game. I wouldn't say our aggressiveness necessarily stopped. They made a lot of tough shots."
Wall placed the blame on himself and Porter. But Wall also had to recognize out of all shooters to leave wide open in that situation, it wasn't Galloway.
"It was Otto for not knowing the foul and also me for leaving the man wide open," Wall said. "We went for steals sometimes when we shouldn't have. At times we were trying to go give up threes but twos, but we were giving up twos in like two seconds so it wasn't enough time running off the clock."
There even was an inbound play in the final seconds as Dudley tried to make an inbounds play. His four teammates hovered near the baseline, giving him no angles or spacing to make any sort of pass. No one broke down court. He had to use the Wizards' last timeout, but Wittman still was able to instruct Porter from the sideline to foul on the final play.
Dudley scored all of his 14 points in the first half. He could only shake his head at how this game could've been a disaster.
"We didn't deserve to win this game," he said. "This game symbolizes us. Inconsistent. Up and down. Great first half. Second half, terrible third we've (had) the whole year, fourth quarter pick it back up in the last four or five minutes. I would've hated to be in Vegas watching those bets on the spread tonight."
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