CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Washington Wizards have had many identities. They started in Chicago as the Packers, then were called the Zephyrs. They moved to Baltimore as the Bullets, kept the name when they went to Washington, then started calling themselves the Wizards a decade ago.
But until Tuesday night they had never been this bad, not by any name.
Emeka Okafor had 29 points and 18 rebounds, and the Charlotte Bobcats pulled away in the fourth quarter for an 80-72 victory, sending a team that had reached the playoffs the past four seasons to depths never seen in its 48-year history: 4-22.
Caron Butler's 31 points weren't enough for woeful, injury-plaged and poor-shooting Washington, which fell to its worst record after 26 games in franchise history.
The Wizards entered the night with the same record as the Baltimore Bullets to start the 1966-67 season. But that team won its next game over the San Francisco Warriors, giving this season's Gilbert Arenas-less bunch a dubious spot in team history.
"I just have to keep working at different things and keep us collected and keep us focused and keep us positive," coach Ed Tapscott said after his team staged another fourth-quarter fade against the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference.
Shooting just 32 percent and dominated inside, the Wizards lost their seventh straight, spoiling Tapscott's return to Charlotte, where he was the expansion Bobcats' first team president.
"You've got continue to play hard and work yourself out of his funk," Butler said.
After Butler's two free throws cut Charlotte's lead to 70-69 with 3:56 left, Okafor went to work. He hit a bank shot, and had a putback after rebounding his own missed dunk to put the Bobcats ahead 74-69.
The Wizards committed a shot clock violation on the next possession, and Okafor dunked again to put it away. Gerald Wallace's alley-oop dunk and layup completed the 10-0 run before Antawn Jamison's meaningless 3-pointer ended the drought.
Wallace added 16 points for the Bobcats, who won an ugly game befitting the struggling teams. Charlotte overcame 42 percent shooting and 18 turnovers for its 10th win.
"That was like going to the dentist," Bobcats coach Larry Brown said. "But thank God for Emeka."
Okafor hit 10 of 15 shots and nine of 17 free throws as the Wizards struggled to guard him.
"It was a little bit choppy," Okafor said. "The first quarter things were rolling. Then we were a little stagnant in the second and third. Then at the end of the fourth quarter we got things going again when we needed to.
"It wasn't necessarily the prettiest thing, but we got it done."
Not only couldn't Washington's front line contain Okafor, the group gave Butler no help on offense.
The Wizards had their fifth different starting lineup since Tapscott took over for the fired Eddie Jordan -- and this one ended a long streak.
Struggling shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson went to Tapscott before Monday's practice and suggested he come off the bench. Stevenson, who came in averaging only 7.6 points while shooting 32 percent, had started 275 straight games. The streak was the second-longest in the NBA behind Detroit's Tayshaun Prince, who started his 379th straight game Tuesday.
Tapscott moved Butler to shooting guard and gave the defensive-minded McGuire his first NBA start at small forward. Stevenson checked in for him with 4:46 left in the first quarter.
Stevenson's 3-pointer late in the third quarter, his only bucket in the last two games, got Washington within 55-53 entering the fourth quarter.
Butler's two free throws with 10:24 left gave Washington a 58-57 lead, but the Wizards soon self-destructed.
"We're just finding different ways to lose games," guard Mike James said. "It seems that way. We've just got to figure out how to win games, especially down the stretch."
Tapscott wasn't surprised that Stevenson suggested he not start. "He's a real team-oriented guy," Tapscott said. ... Bobcats G D.J. Augustin had his team-record streak of 42 straight made free throws snapped in the third quarter. ... Bobcats F Sean May (knee, conditioning) was deactivated for the sixth straight game. ... North Carolina and West Virginia football players, in town for Saturday's Meineke Bowl, played a shooting game during a second-half time out. The Tar Heels won.
- Tony Brothers
- Marc Davis
- Mark Lindsay