WASHINGTON - The rat-a-tat pace of the NBA schedule generally doesn't allow time for one loss to immediately burrow in on a team's psyche. More likely, the effect of the Washington Wizards' 106-101 overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks yesterday might be felt in mid-April, if the Wizards just miss the playoffs.
Come season's end, if the Wizards can't get into the postseason, they'll add yesterday's thriller to a growing list of games that were within their grasp, but ultimately eluded them.
"You can't lose a game like this at home, with so much at stake," Washington forward Charles Oakley said. "We let it slip away. Our defense got tougher, but we have to know how important a game is when we're on the court and do the little things right."
The Wizards not only had Dallas - the team with the best record in the NBA - down by 18 in the first quarter, but they also made up a 12-point deficit in the final 6:30 and in their final possession in regulation had the ball in the hands of Michael Jordan, who launched a 20-footer for the win.
If Jordan, who willed the Wizards to a three-point win over the New Jersey Nets on Friday night with a 43-point performance, had gotten the shot to drop, Washington would have had consecutive wins over two of the league's best teams and a couple of big victories to erase a couple of bad home losses to the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors.
Instead, his right-wing jumper clanked off the back rim.
"I thought I had made it," said Jordan, who had 30 points. "I got exactly what I wanted. I felt like the defense was going to really try to prevent me from trying to go to my left. I made a lot of my game of going to the right. I got a good look, but it didn't go in."
The Wizards (26-29) then were dragged into their second overtime game of the year. In the extra session, Dallas point guard Steve Nash scored nine of his 22 points, including six of the Mavericks' last seven.
The Mavericks (44-12) fell into a 24-6 hole off the bat, as the Wizards pierced Dallas' zone to near perfection, while the Mavericks struggled offensively, save for Dirk Nowitzki and Nick Van Exel, who scored all of Dallas' points in the first quarter.
By the second, however, the Mavericks had picked up the pace, with the second unit of former Maryland star Walt Williams, Eduardo Najera and Van Exel outscoring Washington's subs 25-2 in the half and slicing the Wizards' lead to five at the half.
Out of halftime, Dallas outscored the Wizards 30-16, with Nowitzki and Michael Finley combining to score 25 points in the third period. Finley finished with 24 points, and Nowitzki had 29 with 10 rebounds.
Dallas extended the lead to 12 with 6:30 to go, and the Mavericks' ability to spread the floor and hit from the outside forced Washington coach Doug Collins to go to a smaller lineup, with Oakley in the middle and four guards.
Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse, who each played all but one of the 53 minutes in the game, were joined down the stretch by Tyronn Lue and Juan Dixon, and the gamble paid off as Washington went on an 18-6 run to close the quarter. Stackhouse, who scored 30, hit a three-pointer with 27.7 seconds to go to tie the score at 90.
"We could have very easily rolled over when it started slipping away from us, and our guys just kept fighting," Collins said. "I couldn't have been more proud of them. Obviously, I wanted to win the game, but if our guys will fight like that every night, we are going to win a lot of games, because that team [Dallas] is good."
Dixon, who finished with 16 points, was 5-for-6 inside three-point range, and he scored 11 points in the fourth. However, the former Calvert Hall and Maryland star shot 2-for-10 behind the line, and Dixon's desperation three-point try late in overtime on Washington's last possession was blocked by Finley.
Totals 265 40-85 16-18 6-39 19 20 106
Percentages: FG .471, FT .889. 3-Point Goals: 10-26, .385 (Nash 3-5, Nowitzki 3-8, Van Exel 2-4, Williams 1-2, Finley 1-7). Team rebounds: 13. Team Turnovers: 15 (14 PTS). Blocked shots: 3 (Finley, Nowitzki, Williams). Turnovers: 15 (Nowitzki 5, Nash 3, Van Exel 3, Finley 2, LaFrentz, Williams). Steals: 7 (Williams 2, Bradley, Nash, Nowitzki, Van Exel, Bell). Technical fouls: Defensive Three Second, 6:58 first; Nowitzki, 9:01 fourth.
Totals 265 40-90 14-18 10-38 21 21 101
Percentages: FG .444, FT .778. 3-Point Goals: 7-25, .280 (Stackhouse 3-8, Lue 2-5, Dixon 2-10, Laettner 0-1, Russell 0-1). Team rebounds: 11. Team Turnovers: 10 (13 PTS). Blocked shots: 5 (Haywood 2, Laettner, Jordan, Stackhouse). Turnovers: 9 (Jordan 6, Haywood 2, Lue). Steals: 11 (Jordan 2, Stackhouse 2, Oakley 2, Lue, Laettner, Haywood, Dixon, Russell). Technical foul: Haywood, 3:28 third.
Dallas 13 31 30 16 16 - 106
Washington 26 23 16 25 11 - 101
A: 20,173 (20,674). T: 2:39. Officials: Dick Bavetta, Scott Foster, Derrick Collins.
Next for Wizards
Opponent: Indiana Pacers
Site: Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
When:Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
TV/Radio:CN8/WTEM (980 AM)