Wizards go down meekly to Detroit

December 22, 2012

Are you looking at the scoreboard? (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

The Wizards were down 21 to a 21-loss team in the second quarter and Randy Wittman paced down the court when a fan seated behind the bench shouted, “I don’t know how you can stand this coach!”

Cartier Martin then shot a three-pointer that hit the part of the backboard to the right of the rim. Wittman paused, dropped his head and fan shouted, “It’s getting worse!”

It got worse for the Wizards, on a night when they lost 100-68 to the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., and looked more hopeless and lifeless than at any time this season. They were undermanned without John Wall, Nene, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker and A.J. Price, and there isn’t much talent left on the roster after that. But that didn’t justify how poorly the team played.

“We got guys suited up. Got to come out and play,” said Shaun Livingston, who started the game in place of the injured Beal. “No excuse for the results.”

The Wizards (3-21) trailed by more than 20 points for more than half of the game – and more than 30 the last three minutes – and the Pistons aren’t exactly one of the league’s powerhouses. The loss had Wittman blaming himself for failing to find a group that was willing to compete, and Emeka Okafor looking to quickly delete the files.

“Getting blown out by 30 is never easy. It’s embarrassing,” Okafor said. “They are running up the score and you look at them, trying to stop and you can’t. We just have to wipe this one away. Click and keep on going.”

The Pistons (8-21) didn’t exactly play a great game, but they showed much more hustle and determination to crush their weakened foe. They outrebounded the Wizards, 58-46, and rarely gave up on possessions.

Early in the third period, Okafor blocked a Greg Monroe layup, but Jason Maxiell grabbed the offensive rebound. Monroe missed a jumper, but Kyle Singler swooped in for another offensive rebound. Singler then fed the ball to Tayshaun Prince, who had plenty of time to wind up and make a three-pointer that put the Pistons ahead, 70-43 and forced Wittman to call timeout.

Wittman yelled at Seraphin about not being in rebound position, then he stood alone, flabbergasted. Wittman then drew up a play for Seraphiin on the next possession but Seraphin had his jump hook blocked by Maxiell.

When Wittman pulled Seraphin shortly thereafter, he got in Seraphin’s face and shouted, “You just got your shot blocked by a small forward!” He demanded that Seraphin play with more force.

His request was not met. Seraphin finished with 10 points after getting the starting nod at power forward over Earl Barron but he shot just 5 of 18 from the floor and consistently caught the ire of Wittman for his mistakes. Afterward, Seraphin sulked in front of his locker room stall and said, “I really don’t have anything to say.”

Seraphin had the same look last week in Miami, where the Miami Heat thrashed the team by 30 points. Again, Nene sat out that game. The Wizards have lost four games by 20 or more. Three have come in games Nene has missed in the past month.

“If you make it to this league, you can play,” Okafor said. “Any five should be able to go out there and compete.”

How bad were they? Jordan Crawford scored a team-high 20 points but missed 13 of 23 shots. The rest of the team shot 29 percent (18 of 62). The depleted bench combined to 5 for 24 and contributed 11 points. In the seven games since A.J. Price went down, the Wizards have now failed to score 80 points three times.

The Wizards will quickly have a shot at revenge against Detroit on Saturday, when they host the Pistons at Verizon Center. Beal and Nene could return, but Wittman said he would use the game as an opportunity to evaluate what his players are truly made of.

“I don’t know what else there is to say,” he said. “We got them again [Saturday] night and we’ll find out from our team, who’s going to be standup. Who’s going to stand up and show me. This is an opportunity to step up and show you belong in the league and we didn’t see it.”

Crawford said the Wizards shouldn’t erase the 32-point loss from their memory. “Got to use it as motivation. Can’t let this happen to us again.”

Michael Lee has covered the Wizards and the NBA at the Washington Post since October 2004.
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Michael Lee | December 21, 2012