Butler scored 20 of his 28 points in the second half to lead Washington to a 104-89 victory against the New Jersey Nets on Sunday night.
He gave Washington control of the game for good early in the final quarter, singlehandedly outscoring the Nets 10-1 over a 3-minute span. Butler's run gave Washington a 92-77 lead with about 6½ minutes remaining.
"That start of the fourth quarter was big," Washington's Antonio Daniels said. "He made some big plays. ... He brought a lot of energy, he brought a lot of toughness, which is exactly what you expect out of Caron on a nightly basis."
Butler capped off his run with a tough offensive rebound, which teammates and coaches pointed to as emblematic of his play on the night.
"It was hard-working, gut-check basketball," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said.
The Wizards snapped a six-game losing streak against New Jersey, which was the longest active skid by one team against an opponent.
Butler and Antawn Jamison's 22 points canceled out some big nights by the Nets. Vince Carter led all scorers with 30 points, and Jason Kidd picked up his 92nd career triple-double with 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.
"We're a team that's known for probably putting our guard down a little bit early and letting teams get back into the game, but tonight shows our maturity," Butler said. "It shows how much we've grown as a basketball team."
Washington might have let its guard down in the first half. The Wizards held a 10-point first quarter lead, but New Jersey turned the tables midway through the second quarter, going up 43-32 with an 18-2 run.
"The game of basketball is about runs, and they made the run right off the bat," Kidd said. "Then we made a run and we kind of controlled the game at that point. They came back in the third and put us on our heels."
The Nets held the lead most of the third quarter, but the Wizards regained the upper hand on a big dunk by DeShawn Stevenson.
Stevenson gave Washington its first second-half lead with an emphatic dunk over Richard Jefferson with about four minutes left in the third quarter. Stevenson was called for a technical foul as he was celebrating the dunk and Jefferson made the free throw to tie the game, but the dunk gave the Wizards a boost.
"Once DeShawn got that major dunk, I think the team fed off that energy," Butler said.
Washington closed the third quarter with a 7-0 run, giving it a 78-72 lead and a small cushion before Butler's run sealed the victory.
The Wizards have been at home with a 3-1 record since the start of December. This win also moved the team back up to .500. Washington's players clearly felt this game was important, which showed down the stretch.
"Just a sense of urgency," Jamison said. "In the first half it was kind of touch and go for a moment, but we did a great job in the second half."
The urgency came in the paint. Washington was outrebounded 22-18 in the first half, but ended up with 39 rebounds to New Jersey's 38.
The Wizards also held a big advantage at the free throw line. Washington made its first 17 free throws and finished 34-for-36. The Nets were 11-for-16 from the line.
|Caron Butler loses his grip on the ball but still leads the Wizards with 28 points. (AP)|
|New Jersey (9-12)||23||25||24||17||89|
|Washington (10-10) «||27||15||36||26||104|
|NJ:V. Carter 30 Pts
NJ:J. Kidd 10 Reb
NJ:J. Kidd 13 Ast
|WAS:C. Butler 28 Pts
WAS:A. Jamison 10 Reb
WAS:A. Daniels 5 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|R. Jefferson, SF||43||4-12||1-1||2||3||2||9|
|V. Carter, SG||40||11-17||4-6||5||4||4||30|
|J. Kidd, PG||38||5-11||2-2||10||13||2||13|
|J. Collins, C||15||0-1||0-0||1||0||2||0|
|M. Allen, PF||11||2-5||0-0||2||0||2||4|
|A. Wright, SF||28||2-7||2-4||2||1||4||6|
|B. Nachbar, SF||27||7-12||2-3||7||0||5||19|
|J. Boone, PF||25||3-4||0-0||8||0||1||6|
|D. Armstrong, PG||10||1-2||0-0||0||1||0||2|
|J. Magloire, C||4||0-0||0-0||1||0||2||0|
|E. Gill, SG||1||0-1||0-0||0||0||1||0|
|N. Krstic, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Williams, PG||Did Not Play|
|S. Williams, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|A. Jamison, PF||46||7-21||7-8||10||3||2||22|
|C. Butler, SF||45||10-21||8-9||6||5||2||28|
|D. Stevenson, SG||37||5-11||1-1||3||0||0||12|
|A. Daniels, PG||35||1-5||8-8||4||5||0||10|
|B. Haywood, C||23||2-4||6-6||4||0||2||10|
|R. Mason, SG||19||2-3||3-3||1||1||2||9|
|D. Songaila, PF||15||5-8||1-1||6||1||2||11|
|A. Blatche, SF||8||0-2||0-0||5||0||2||0|
|N. Young, SG||7||1-4||0-0||0||0||0||2|
|D. McGuire, PF||5||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|E. Thomas, C||Did Not Play|
|G. Arenas, PG||Did Not Play|
|O. Pecherov, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|