Thursday, January 17, 2008

Minus AD, Wiz Suffer Predictable Letdown

After two, emotionally charged wins against the Celtics, a road loss the following night shouldn't have come as a real surprise to anyone. Washington was playing its fourth game in five nights in four cities and they were without starting point guard Antonio Daniels who watched this one from the sidelines with a sore knee. Still, it wasn't the Magic or Pistons or even the Pacers who they were playing. This was the Knicks. The 10-26, "you tell me how we beat the Pistons in Detroit cause I for the life of me have no clue," New York Knicks.

Washington came out flat offensively, shot under 40 percent for the third straight game and forgot everything they had learned against the Celtics about the benefits of playing defense. Jamal Crawford had a field day from beyond the arc, nailing 6-of-7 treys and tallying a game-high 29 points as the Knicks won two in a row for the first time since November, 105-93.

The Wiz looked lethargic, and understandably so, and couldn't find their flow on offense with Roger Mason at the helm. Caron Butler put up 24, Antawn Jamison had 21 and Mason more than made up for AD in the box score with 20 of his own, but it wasn't enough to match a Knicks team that shot 51 percent from the field and 65 percent from downtown. Six Knicks finished in double-figures and New York had six more boards and 13 more assists - see the lack of Daniels as Mason had zero dishes and one turnover - than the Wiz.

This was a great win for the Knicks (12-26) who last night extended their winning streak to an unconscionable three with a 111-105 win at New Jersey. Maybe Isiah made a deal with Eddie to take it easy on his boys so they could win a couple to prevent him from getting canned before the All-Star break.

This was not a terrible loss for the Wiz. Yeah, it's the Knicks and they're bad. All right, they're awful. But they've learned how to feast on teams coming off four games in five days stretches (see the win over the Pistons), and Washington was ripe for the picking. It's disappointing, but they're still riding the high of the weekend double-dip and you can fully expect them to come out hard Friday when the Knicks come to town. There's something fun about getting to play a two-game mini-series with a conference foe during the regular season. You get a chance to gauge their weapons, study their offense and see how your guys respond.

It's nice to see Washington taking this loss harder than they normally might, however. If they want to establish themselves as a force in the conference, which they fully believe they are capable of doing - and this weekend's sweep of Boston lends credence too, they need to beat the teams below them. DeShawn Stevenson, who scored just four points to end a streak of five straight double-figure games in which the Wizards went 4-1, took the loss especially hard. "The Locksmith" as he was dubbed by Ernie Grunfeld after holding Kevin Durant in check earlier this month, couldn't contain the scorching Crawford. Look for the bearded one to come out with a chip on his shoulder Friday night.


  • Rookie forward Oleksiy Pecherov had a career high nine points in the loss to New York. He showed off his range, hitting three treys in 18 first half minutes. But Pesh missed both of his shots from long-range during Washington's attempted rally late in the fourth quarter. He was bummed after the game, saying "I try to make the shot, but I just miss it. I let the team down." No worries big fella. You're just getting a feel for NBA action and it's good to see Eddie having enough confidence in you to play you down the stretch. Keep shooting!
  • Jamison saw his streak of three straight double-doubles end in New York. The should-be All-Star has 25 double-d's in 37 games this year. That's more than MVP front-runner Kevin Garnett.
  • "It's one thing to say you beat the best team in the league back-to-back and all of a sudden you come back, lose to a team that's won what, 11 games before tonight? You've still got to lace them up. You've still got to be focused enough and you've still got to bring the energy early in the game. And for us those were the things that pretty much lost the game for us." - AJ on the loss to New York
"The Locksmith" is angry, Pesh is pissed and Jamal Crawford averages 19.8 points per game on normal nights. All that adds up to a stingy defensive effort from a Wizards team eager to prove they aren't about to suffer a setback after announcing to the league that they are prepared to make some noise with or without their biggest mouth on the floor. Caron and AJ do their thing and Brendan Haywood helps Washington win the battle of the boards. The Wiz get back on track, 97-90.

-- the Tar Heel

All photos AP/Getty

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