But the second-round pick from UCLA redeemed himself in overtime, and Richard Jefferson had 32 points, rallying the Milwaukee Bucks to a 112-104 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
"If you have an open shot, all my teammates always tell me in practice you have to take that shot," said Mbah a Moute, who finished with 17 points but missed a potential winner from 17 feet as time expired in regulation.
No worries. Milwaukee, which already had overcome a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, began pulling away when Jefferson dunked in transition to give the Bucks a 104-102 lead with 1:49 left in overtime.
"You have to have some kind of resolve and some kind of confidence and air about you," Jefferson said. "We knew we could come back, we just had to get some good stops."
Then Mbah a Moute took over.
After DeShawn Stevenson's loose ball foul, Mbah a Moute drove for a layup and grabbed a rebound after forcing Antawn Jamison to miss a short shot. Mbah a Moute scored again on a 12-footer with 37 seconds left to give Milwaukee a 108-102 lead.
"The only thing he did for us was miss the game winner," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "He was good down the stretch, he made some plays, he played off the dribble, pulled up, made some good shots."
Darius Songaila's layup made it 108-104, but Luke Ridnour hit two free throws, Jamison missed a 3 with Mbah a Moute hawking him and Ridnour added two more foul shots.
Ridnour, who missed the two previous games with back spasms, finished with 20 points and 11 assists. Andrew Bogut had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and Ramon Sessions added 22 points for Milwaukee.
"I thought Richard was great, Mbah a Moute was great, Ridnour, Sessions -- those four guys carried us right there," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said.
It appeared that the Wizards would finally get their first win with an 85-71 lead with 9:58 to play, but the Bucks, who were missing Michael Redd because of an ankle injury, stormed back.
"We could have easily just folded that thing up," Skiles said. "We looked like we were teetering on the edge for several possessions."
Instead, it was Washington that fell apart with 20 turnovers and Jordan wasn't happy about it, hinting there could be big changes ahead for a team already without Gilbert Arenas (knee) and Brendan Haywood (wrist) for the foreseeable future.
"I'm trying to be loyal to NBA vets and the continuity theme, (but) I'm growing very impatient with it," Jordan said.
Trailing the entire second half, the Bucks cut it to four off a jumper by Jefferson and a dunk in transition by Mbah a Moute with 5:03 left. A free throw by Bogut made it 95-92 and Ridnour hit an open jumper with 1:58 to go to make it 95-94.
JaVale McGee hit the second of two free throws and Sessions finally tied it at 96 on a dunk with 1:16 left to take the momentum when Caron Butler lost the ball trying to go behind his back.
"I just lost the ball. It was good defense," said Butler, who finished with 27 points. "Sessions recovered the ball and went coast to coast. It's just one of those things."
On the Bucks' next possession, Mbah a Moute sent a bounce pass into Bogut for a dunk for Milwaukee's first lead since the first half. Jamison, who had 19 points and 10 rebounds, tied it at 98 with a lay-in off a pass from Juan Dixon with 21 seconds to go.
That set up one more chance for Milwaukee, and Ridnour got a screen and sent a pass to Mbah a Moute in the corner. Mbah a Moute pump faked, but missed the jumper that would've won it.
"I just try to go out there and help my team win, that's all," Mbah a Moute said. "I'm still a rookie. I'm still learning."
Notes: Nick Young scored 14 points and Dixon had 10 for Washington. ... Milwaukee built a 30-12 lead in the first quarter before going cold ... The Wizards' 17-0 run straddling the first and second halves gave them a 49-39 lead early in the third quarter while Milwaukee went nearly eight minutes without a point. ... Skiles hopes Redd will play at Boston on Friday night. ... Milwaukee scored nine points on 4-of-18 shooting in the second quarter, one point more than the franchise worst for a quarter.