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Kings' Isaiah Thomas proves royal pain to the Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Kevin Dunleavy

Guard's late shot sinks Washington at Verizon Center

With powerful work inside, Emeka Okafor delivered the Washington Wizards to the verge of their sixth straight home win. But the smallest player on the floor stole it away.

Scoring 10 points in the final six minutes and hitting the winning floater in the lane with 1.9 seconds left, 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas loomed large for the Sacramento Kings, making all the clutch plays in a 96-94 victory before 13,422 at Verizon Center.

With Okafor scoring a season-high 23 points and hauling down 15 rebounds, the Wizards led most of the night. But young Sacramento (17-29) hung close throughout, never trailing by more than seven points. In the end, the Kings rallied behind an efficient offense guided by Thomas (22 points, seven assists) that produced layups and open shots on the perimeter in the decisive fourth quarter.

"I couldn't find anybody to guard him. That was disappointing," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "He got anywhere he wanted -- right, left -- and the kid made a play at the end."

After Martell Webster (18 points) faked a jumper and drove the baseline for the tying layup with 7.9 seconds left, Wittman inserted 6-foot-6 Garrett Temple to guard Thomas, who received an inbound pass in front of the Wizards' bench and made his way to the lane unimpeded for his tear-drop shot.

"I wanted to try something different," Wittman said of using Temple, who played 13 seconds in the game.

After trailing 78-72 early in the fourth quarter, the Kings scored on three straight possessions to forge a tie. Then with 5:57 left, Thomas received a kick-out pass, set his feet and drilled an open 3-pointer to give Sacramento the lead 81-79.

On the next possession, when rookie and D.C. native Thomas Robinson (nine points) banked in a shot from just inside the 3-point line, it was a bad omen for Washington (11-32). A 3-pointer by Marcus Thornton (11 points, four rebounds) gave the Kings their biggest lead at 86-81 with 3:52 left, and Washington had to play catch-up the rest of the way.

"We let ourselves down. We let our fans down. That's something we can't do, especially not against that team," Webster said. "We know defensively is where we're gonna have to win that game, and tonight we let them get the best of us."

There were opportunities for the Wizards late, but Nene (four points, seven rebounds) committed two of his six turnovers in the final 26 seconds, including the game-sealer with 0.8 seconds left in a desperation situation as Washington had little time to rush the ball up the floor.

Washington committed 20 turnovers to 10 for Sacramento. The Kings outrebounded the Wizards 45-35, and their reserves outscored the Wizards' bench players 47-24, led by Francisco Garcia (17 points), who hit four of five 3-pointers in the first half to keep Sacramento close.

Sensing his injured wrist was sore, Wittman played guard Bradley Beal (six points, three assists) only three minutes in the second half and got little from backcourt reserves A.J. Price (two points, one assist, three turnovers) and Jordan Crawford (four points, two assists, two turnovers) in a combined 35 minutes.

"My wrist felt good tonight for the most part," Beal said. "We had multiple chances to put them away. I wouldn't say the shot by Isaiah was the ultimate factor. As a team we have to take responsibility and know that this loss is simply our own fault. We let the Kings stick around too long."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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