Wizards bench comes up short in Cleveland

March 13, 2013
I'm about to outscore your whole bench, A.J. (Associated Press) I’m about to outscore your whole bench, A.J. (Associated Press)

A.J. Price buried his head under a towel, folded his arms and slouched back in his locker room stall after the Wizards lost, 95-90, to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena.

Price had a forgettable game as he missed 6 of 7 shots and finished with just three points. Unfortunately for the Wizards, Price was also the leading scorer off the bench and that lack of production from the second unit was one of the main reasons that the Wizards lost for the third time this season to the Cavaliers.

The Wizards’ reserves combined to go 4 for 21 from the field (19 percent) and were outscored, 27-11, by the Cavaliers’ bench. Backup swing man Wayne Ellington outscored the Wizards’ bench by himself as he scored 12 points.

Already put in a bind with Bradley Beal’s absence for the fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle, Coach Randy Wittman was forced to once again thrust Garrett Temple into the starting role at shooting guard. The move worked in 104-87 win against Charlotte, but the Wizards lost another one of their key players when self-proclaimed “sixth starter” Trevor Ariza didn’t play in the second half of the game in Cleveland with a sore left knee.

Ariza scored two points in a 12-minute stint in the first half and didn’t appear to get injured on any particular play. But after the game, Ariza had an ice pack on his left knee and said he would “probably not” be available on Wednesday when the Wizards host the Milwaukee Bucks at Verizon Center.

The Wizards have come to depend on Ariza’s scoring off the bench in recent weeks. He started the first two games Beal missed with his ankle injury but was moved back into a reserve role against Charlotte and scored a season-high 26 points with five three-pointers.

At the beginning of the year, the Wizards’ bench was one of its few strengths, with Jordan Crawford leading the team in scoring despite not starting and the team leading the NBA in second unit scoring. The Wizards now rank eighth in the NBA in bench production, averaging 37.1 points but they don’t have many offensive options if Ariza is forced to miss much time.

Crawford in Boston and one of the pieces he was acquired for in Brazil recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (Leandro Barbosa) while the other piece known more for his ability to foul than score (Jason Collins). Nearly three weeks after he was acquired, Collins finally made his Wizards debut, recording a blocked shot in three minutes.

Wittman used every player available on his roster with the exception of Jan Vesely. And the Wizards simply didn’t have much offense to compensate for the loss of two of their top scorers. John Wall scored a season high with 27 points and handed out 14 assists, but the offense sputtered when he sat; the Wizards were outscored by 17 points in the 11 minutes Wall wasn’t on the floor.

Cartier Martin played his third game after missing nearly two months with a sprained left knee, but he continues to struggle with his shot. He was 0 for 3 in Cleveland and has shot just 1 for 12 overall since coming back.

The Wizards have now gone 1-3 since Beal sprained his ankle and are 3-8 this season without him. Beal remains day-to-day. “It could be a day. It could be a week. We just have to wait and see,” Wittman said.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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