Published April 14, 2010
WASHINGTON (AP) — Andray Blatche scored 26 points as the Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 98-97 Wednesday night in a season-ending game for a pair of lottery-bound teams.
Rookie Cedric Jackson made a 3-pointer with 1:31 to play to give the Wizards the lead, and the scoreboard didn't budge the rest of the way. Danny Granger missed a 15-footer at the buzzer that would have given the Pacers the win.
Jackson, who has spent the season living off 10-day contracts with three different teams, scored all of his career-high eight points in the final 5½ minutes for the Wizards, who endured a season no fiction writer would concoct.
Longtime owner Abe Pollin died in November. Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton brought guns into the locker room in December. Franchise cornerstones Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood were traded in February, and the biggest asset they acquired — Josh Howard — promptly blew out his knee. Arenas is serving 30 days in a halfway house, Crittenton is on probation, and the laborious process of selling the team to Ted Leonsis still hasn't been completed.
The Wizards' 25 starting lineups nearly matched the win total (26) over 82 games and wasn't much better than last year's 19-victory campaign. Washington's hope lies in the fact that only six players are under contract for next season, and the team will have plenty of salary cap space to pursue free agents this summer.
If there was a highlight, it came at the end of the third period, when Pollin's widow addressed the crowd while standing with her two sons on the front row of the owner's suite. Clearly nervous and looking uncomfortable with the microphone, Irene Pollin steadied herself and thanked fans, staff, coach Flip Saunders and general manager Ernie Grunfeld for persevering through a "very, very tough year." She concluded by referencing her late husband's eternal optimism: "Next year's going to be better, I promise you that."
Roy Hibbert scored a career-high 29 points for the Pacers, who finished the season out of the playoffs with a win total in the 30s for the fourth straight year. Their 32 victories is their fewest since 1988-89, but the franchise has some young talent and is at the end of the second year of a four-year rebuilding plan.
Hibbert, playing in the same arena where he starred for Georgetown for four years, went 10 for 16 from the field and 9 for 11 from the free throw line.
Blatche had 13 points after just 8 minutes for the Wizards, who led by as many as 11 in the first half. Hibbert was dominant in the second quarter, scoring 12 points with help from frequent trips to the free throw line.
Hibbert kept it up in the third quarter as the Pacers built a 14-point lead late in the period. The Wizards whittled away at the deficit and trailed by one with 4½ minutes to play, setting up the close finish.
Notes: Wizards F Mike Miller's momentum took him to the first row when he was fouled on the way to the basket in the first quarter. Miller picked up a program on a vacant seat, opened it and took a quick look before putting it down and heading to the free throw line. ... Washington's Al Thornton passed the 3,000-point mark in the first half, but he left the game early in the fourth quarter with a mild concussion after getting hit in the face by Brandon Rush while driving to the basket. ... The Pacers ended a streak of nine straight wins against teams that haven't qualified for the playoffs.