SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 17 -- The Washington Wizards' seven-game winning streak actually came to an end the day before they arrived in San Antonio -- when guard Larry Hughes drove to the basket in the final minutes Saturday and Phoenix Suns forward Quentin Richardson chopped down on his hand. When the team found out a day later that Hughes would be out for four to six weeks with a fractured right thumb, the players were shocked and distraught.
Coach Eddie Jordan said he didn't know how his team would respond before it faced the San Antonio Spurs on Monday afternoon. But he couldn't have been too surprised with the result, a 101-73 beating. Asked how tough it was for the team to adjust without one of its captains, its second-leading scorer, its toughest perimeter defender and so much more, center Brendan Haywood asked back, "Did you see the score?"
Rasho Nesterovic and the Spurs club Gilbert Arenas, left, to end the Wizards' seven-game winning streak, 101-73, Monday afternoon.
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The score had a lot to do with the Wizards (22-14) playing the Spurs, a championship contender, which would have been a challenge even with Hughes in uniform. The Spurs also are close to unbeatable at SBC Center, where they are 20-1, have won 12 in a row and are 10-0 against Eastern Conference teams. They have won five consecutive games against the Wizards in San Antonio.
"I'd rather get beat by the best team in the league, rather than the worst to end our 7-0 run," point guard Gilbert Arenas said. "It was like the young kid who gets bold and goes against his father and his father has to smack us down to let us know we're still small. They smacked us down and let us know we need more work."
The Wizards began to unravel after the opening tip-off. They missed 11 of their first 12 shots and trailed 21-2 before they even figured out what was going on. In the end, the Wizards set season lows in shooting percentage (31.8) and points (73). They also failed to score at least 100 points for the first time in 10 games. But all of that -- including a seven-game winning streak that featured wins against Phoenix, Seattle and Minnesota -- felt like a distant memory Monday. "You forget so quickly," Jordan said.
With Hughes gone, the Wizards were missing 21.2 points per game, but they still had two capable 20-point scorers in Arenas and Antawn Jamison -- or so they thought. Arenas and Jamison combined to score just nine points on 2-of-20 shooting. Arenas missed all 12 of his field goal attempts and scored a season-low three points -- almost 20 below his season average -- and went without a field goal for the first time since Nov. 20, when he scored his previous season low (seven points) in New Jersey. "But I was in foul trouble" against the Nets, Arenas said. "I've never played a full game without going with a basket. It was one of those games. . . . You're bound to have one dull egg."
Jordan sat Arenas and Jamison for the entire fourth quarter. Jamison wore a black headband in honor of Hughes, but after he missed his first six shots, Jamison abandoned it before halftime. "Larry knows we miss him," Jamison said. "He means a lot to this team. We're missing an all-star. We've got to find a way to fill the void until he gets back."
Arenas was outplayed by point guard Tony Parker, who had 23 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds for the Spurs. San Antonio was short-handed, too, playing without third-leading scorer Manu Ginobili, who missed the game with a right quadriceps contusion.
Reserve guard Devin Brown led the Spurs with 24 points -- one fewer point than the Wizards' starting five, which totaled 25 points. Juan Dixon, who started in place of Hughes, scored 10 points and led the Wizards with six rebounds. "This is not how we wanted to play the first game without him," reserve forward Jarvis Hayes said after scoring a career-high 27 points. "It's a wake-up call. We've got to get it together fast and hold down the fort until he gets back."
The loss even had Jordan rethinking his wardrobe. "The only thing I can think of is that I'm not wearing that sports jacket again," Jordan said immediately after the game. "I expect us to come back and be like we have been, pretty much be resilient, come out with more energy and more assertiveness. Still, we're treading waters that we haven't been in."
The Wizards have proven to be a resilient bunch in the face of adversity this season, but they didn't come close to resembling the team that rallied to defeat the Grizzlies in Memphis in the season opener with Arenas, Hughes, Haywood and Anthony Peeler serving suspensions. Or the team that came within a three-pointer of taking the Celtics to overtime in Boston when Arenas was out with dehydration and the flu. But those were one-game situations -- the Wizards will be without Hughes until at least the end of February and they will face the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday. "We miss him," Jordan said of Hughes. "We are going to miss him."