With the Washington Wizards within three points in the closing minute against the Indiana Pacers after a furious rally ignited by the reserves, starting guard Jordan Crawford got the ball and shot a jumper that clanked off the rim.
That miss was the last in a long line from the starters, who combined for 31 points on 8-for-37 shooting and half of the team’s 10 turnovers, leaving Coach Randy Wittman desperately in search of answers.
“If I had a cellphone, I’d be calling the waiver wire trying to find another body,” he said.
The lack of production from Crawford and fellow first-teamers Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely, Emeka Okafor and A.J. Price in large part sent the Wizards to their franchise-worst ninth consecutive loss to the start the season, 96-89, on Monday night at Verizon Center, where players heard boos early in the first quarter and as the final buzzer sounded.
It was a particularly bad night for Crawford, who finished 2 for 12 and was inserted late only because backup Trevor Booker was limping on the court.
“We don’t have a strategy right now. We’re 0-9,” said Crawford, whose 24 minutes 11 seconds and 11 points were the most among the starters. “We need to go with what works, and the second group was working. They got us back in the game, and I’m proud of them.”
No Wizards starter shot better than 50 percent, although the reserves staged an improbable comeback that just missed. Down 26-7, Washington rallied with a 16-0 run to cut the margin to 71-67 at the start of the fourth quarter, but David West’s three-point play gave the Pacers a seven-point lead.
Washington cut it to 86-85 on Chris Singleton‘s basket while being fouled with 3:30 to play, but the reserve forward missed a free throw. West followed with a pair of jumpers, and the Wizards got no closer than three the rest of the way.
“I’m playing 12 and 13 every night. You can’t do that in an NBA game,” Wittman said. “You want want to develop a [starting] group and then a group that comes in. I’m having a hard time doing that with the play we’re having.”
It was the second consecutive game Wittman went with the same starting lineup, which got one point on 0-for-4 shooting from Okafor, an offseason acquisition intended to provide professionalism and effort and become a leader in the locker room. In the Wizards’ first game against the Pacers, Okafor had 17 points and defended center Roy Hibbert well. This time Hibbert had 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
The same is true of Ariza, who spent two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and was part of their NBA championship team in 2008-09. Against the Pacers, Ariza shot 2 for 9, including missing both of his three-point attempts.
“Guys are definitely frustrated,” Price said. “We know we’re better than what we’re showing out there. For whatever reason we haven’t been able to put together a full 48 minutes, so it is frustrating, but it’s a long season, and we’ve got to keep on fighting.”