The Wizards were in trouble from the start. Orlando Magic all-star center Dwight Howard won the opening tip to Hedo Turkoglu and Nick Young let Jason Richardson get by him for an easy layup. Young quickly tried to strike back, but missed a running shot and the Wizards’ horrific display of bad defense and even worse offense had just begun.
If there was any wonder why the Wizards entered the game ranking last in the NBA in scoring and offensive efficiency, the first five minutes was an classic example of how poorly they have looked on that end of the floor all season. The shot selection was suspect and the ball movement was non-existent, except for some questionable passes.
“It’s like everybody blanks out,” John Wall said after the Wizards lost, 103-85, at Amway Center and set a new franchise record by opening the season with six losses. “Everybody going for their own. And we don’t have anybody on our team that can just go get his own bucket whenever. You see everybody being selfish on the offensive end and on the defensive end, we’re not trusting each other … If we don’t find a way to play together and win games, it could get ugly this whole season.”
The Wizards missed their first 12 shots and folded.
After Young’s off-target runner, Wall stole the ball from Richardson and gave the ball to Andray Blatche on a three-on-one break, but instead of taking the ball to the basket for a layup, Blatche stopped and pulled up for a 20-foot jumper.
Richardson made a wide-open three-pointer and Young decided he needed one, too, so he looked off JaVale McGee in the post to shoot a contested three-pointer. Young took another desperation three-pointer with the shot clock winding down a few minutes later. Blatche drove into the lane a drive and kicked the ball out to McGee, who shot and missed a 19-foot baseline jumper that was too far out of his range.
Even the supposedly easy shots were a task. Wall sprinted out ahead on the break and appeared to have a clear path to the basket, but Howard chased him down and slapped the ball hard off the glass with a volleyball spike. Blatche grabbed the rebound and missed an underhand scoop layup, setting up a Jameer Nelson jumper on the other end.
Rashard Lewis missed a short jumper, Wall missed two more layups and a long jumper coming out of timeout, and Roger Mason Jr. missed a long pull-up jumper before the Wizards finally ended their misery when Blatche made a layup that made the score 9-2. The Wizards were down by 17 points in the first quarter and were their own worst enemy. Blatche was called for goaltending when he jumped and snatched Chris Duhon’s free throw attempt off the rim. Even worse, Blatche was the only player under the basket. The rebound was already his.
“You can’t even judge where we’re at,” Coach Flip Saunders said. “We’re getting off to such bad starts. You’re 0-12 to start the game, it sucks the energy out of you. You fall behind so much, you can’t see where you’re at. What happens is, when things go bad, everyone thinks they are going to do it themselves.”
The energy level of the Wizards appeared to get deducted with each miss, as players lowered their heads and wanted to just fast-forward to the conclusion. The body language on the floor was beyond terrible.
“Nobody came to compete. To me, we didn’t even come out playing hard,” Lewis said in his embarrassing return to Orlando. “I know that Orlando Magic team. And to me, they played pretty well, but they didn’t play nearly as hard as they should have. The game was easy for them tonight. We went through the motions and nobody competed.”
The Wizards shot a season-low 36.6 percent, taking their field goal percentage down to 39.2 percent for the season. Of the six players that average more than five shots a game, McGee is the only one who shoots better than 38 percent. The New Jersey Nets are the only other team in the league is shooting below 40 percent.
“Right now, we playing as individuals and we got to change it ASAP,” Jordan Crawford said.
Saunders said he might have to make some adjustments to the starting lineup if the problems persist. Since replacing Crawford, Young has struggled to find the groove that he had established as a sixth man. He scored a team-high 17 put missed 10 of 15 shots. And in four starts, Young is 16 for 54 (29.6 percent), including 2 of 12 from three-point range.
“We’ve got to get some kind of structure out there on the court. Everybody can’t force things,” Young said. “It’s hard. For me, I got to take the shots I want to take and not force things.”
If not for the Nets, the Wizards would be the lowest scoring team in the league. They are the only squads in the NBA that don’t average at least 86 points and the Wizards have only topped 90 points once. The Wizards also have just 89 assists on the season, which isn’t going to produce many wins.
“The way [the Magic] played tonight as a team, that’s what we’ve got to get to,” Lewis said. “We got to watch teams like them. Teams like the Boston Celtics, setting screens for each other, getting easy looks, doing the little things to win ball games. It’s not all about stats, individual play, trying to make a name for yourself in this league. I think when you play together and you win ball games everybody gets noticed. You’ve got to get individual out of the way with this team.”