Wizards 111, 76ers 108
WASHINGTON (AP)— Caron Butler’s return was just what Washington needed after a dismal road trip.
Butler provided Washington with a spark following a 1-4 road trip that saw the team fall out of first place in the Southeast Division.
The All-Star played almost 40 minutes and scored 15 points in the second half, including a wild 3-pointer he banked in from his own free-throw line at the end of the third quarter.
“I was fatigued for the most part, but I wasn’t going to tell coach that,” Butler said. “I was just trying to continue to gut it out and try to establish a rhythm. Once a couple shots got to falling in, my teammates were really looking for me to get me into an offensive flow and everything started feeling good. Probably in like the third quarter, I started feeling real good.”
Stevenson’s 28 points were one less than his career high. Iguodala, who missed a contested 3-point attempt at the buzzer, led Philadelphia with 26.
Butler erased any doubts about his knee by playing the entire first quarter. With time running down in the period, he drove left to the hoop, crossed over to his right hand and dropped in a layup before sprawling to the court. He hopped up energetically after the fall, showing no signs of the injury.
In the second half, he and Stevenson shouldered the scoring load while Gilbert Arenas was without a field goal for nearly 20 minutes. Butler wowed the crowd twice near the end of the third quarter and helped break open a close game.
Before his long heave, Butler scored a left-handed layup off the dribble after an explosive spin move in the lane. Then, his wild shot capped a 14-4 run during which he and Stevenson combined for 10 points and Washington took an 83-73 lead.
“It felt good and I’m just happy it went in,” Butler said of the shot. “Hopefully, it will make SportsCenter or something. I’m going to stay up all night and watch and see what happens.”
Philadelphia erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter, though, while the Wizards went more than 5 minutes without a field goal.
With the score tied 103-103, Stevenson gave Washington the lead with an 18-footer from the right wing with 1:18 to play. The Wizards never trailed again thanks to two free throws each by Antawn Jamison, Butler and Arenas. Washington was perfect on 15 free-throw attempts in the fourth.
“I was tired,” said Stevenson, who scored 18 in the first half. “It was a tough road trip and flying, getting back, at the same time, it was a tough night, but I got a rhythm early and it helped out.”
Iguodala tried to pull Philadelphia back in the closing seconds. He scored the 76ers’ last five points and took the final shot. He pulled up from the top of the key, but Butler and Jarvis Hayes forced him to double-clutch during the shot. It didn’t come close to falling, and the 76ers lost for the first time in three games.
“We kept scrapping,” Iguodala said. “They did a good job of really getting up big, and that was the determining factor in the game. We had to fight to get back and it was too late.”
Butler finished 9-of-17 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and had four assists.
“It’s nice, you know, a guy that’s an All-Star with big numbers on the court and his defense,” Stevenson said. “It was nice to have him back.”
Washington’s Andray Blatche missed his second consecutive game with a left knee sprain. … Arenas surpassed the 2,000-point plateau for the season, joining Walt Bellamy (1961-64) as the only players in franchise history with 2,000 or more points in three straight seasons. … Joe Smith was not with Philadelphia due to personal reasons. … Philadelphia missed an opportunity to improve to .500 since trading Allen Iverson. The 76ers are 23-25 since the trade.