Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Short-handed Wizards Drop Another Heartbreaker

No Gilbert Arenas. No Etan Thomas. No Caron Butler. No Antonio Daniels.

That's what the Wizards have been dealing with for the last few games now, and those are more than enough reasons to explain their eight-game losing streak. But - with the exception of one horrendous quarter in Philly - they really haven't played poorly.

With a patchwork starting lineup and reserves leading the way, Washington is competing each and every night and yet the wins seem to be just out of their reach. Take last night's 120-117 loss at Golden State. The Wizards played a stellar first half, beating the Warriors at their own game by running the floor and scoring at will from all over the court. They put up a ridiculous 72 points in the first half and led by as many as 23 points behind hot shooting from Roger Mason and another solid effort from Antawn Jamison. He and Brendan Haywood crashed the boards - combining for 20 rebounds and two individual double-doubles.

But Steven Jackson took over in the second half, scoring 10 of the Warriors' 12 straight points in the final minutes as the home team stormed back to win it. Washington really fell apart defensively down the stretch and was unable to get the one stop they needed to slow down the surging Warriors. They took the short end of several calls down the stretch as well, as DeShawn Stevenson and Jamison got nailed in the head on consecutive possessions and no fouls were called. On the other end, Washington kept fouling Jackson and the 82 percent free throw shooter calmly sank 15-of-17 from the line.

There were many positives, like Mason's career-high 32 points, five treys and six assists or Haywood's 20-and-10 effort. Jamison had 25 points, 10 boards and a uncharacteristic six steals (accounting for more than half of the team's 11) and the Wiz shot 47 percent from beyond the arc (10-for-21) and 89 percent from the line (23-for-26).

It was a tremendous team effort for a squad that had lost by one the night before in Phoenix (107-108), but when you're on a skid like these guys - the team's longest since 2001 - getting close isn't good enough. You need to win one to stop the bleeding.

The Wizards need to get healthy and Eddie Jordan knows that, which is why he's not taking any chances by throwing his guys back out on the court before they've fully healed. But with or without their injured stars, they are desperate for a win to give them something positive to build on. They'll have another chance to get that elusive 'W' Wednesday night at Staples Center against the Clips.

"We jumped on them early but we knew that they are a team capable of coming back so our big thing was to get back and keep them from getting easy buckets and that's what they were getting. They were getting layups, open threes, second-chance shots. These are things you can't give up and win. You can't win doing that and that's the bottom line. We gave too many of those up and didn't score enough at the other end. This is a game we should have won." - Roger Mason

All photos AP/Getty Images

-- The Tar Heel

No comments: