By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
DALLAS, Nov. 21 -- Before Tuesday night's game against the Dallas Mavericks, it was pointed out to Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas that although the Mavericks were riding a six-game winning streak, they had looked almost nothing like the dominant team that won 60 games last season before pushing the eventual champion Miami Heat to the brink in the NBA Finals.
"I know, but don't say that," Arenas said. "They might put it all together tonight."
After the Mavericks blew open a competitive game with a 29-8 second-half run and cruised to an easy 107-80 win in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,080, Arenas recalled that pregame observation.
"I told you so," he said.
The Wizards (4-6) dropped to 0-5 away from Verizon Center and continue a three-game road trip Wednesday in Houston against the Rockets. The Wizards aren't likely to win anywhere if they play the way they did for the final three quarters Tuesday night.
After a hot first quarter, during which Arenas scored 15 of his 29 points as Washington built a 30-21 lead, the shots stopped falling, the defense lagged and the Mavericks ran the Wizards off the court. The 80 points were a season low for Washington.
The game was tied at 58 with 7 minutes 57 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Dirk Nowitzki made an open three pointer from the corner. The Wizards missed their next nine field goal attempts -- most of them jump shots -- and the Mavericks buried their guests under an avalanche of offense.
Devin Harris drove down the lane for an easy layup, Nowitzki grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it back in, Greg Buckner made an open three-pointer and Harris hit another, giving Dallas a 70-60 lead with 2:53 remaining in the third.
Dallas (7-4) was playing its fourth game in five nights but surprised the Wizards by matching their energy when the game turned into an up-and-down track meet in the second half.
"My thinking was that for Dallas to play four games in five nights, that it was the pace we wanted to be in at that time, but it was the opposite result," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "At the end of the [third] quarter, they made their run. They made shots and we didn't make shots. We felt we could have the energy and outlast them for the entire 48 minutes."
As usual, Washington's production mirrored that of Arenas, who made only 2 of 10 three-point attempts overall and just 2 of 8 shots in the second half. Arenas, who has struggled on the road all season, said he was comfortable with the shots he was taking but simply wasn't getting them to go down.
"We couldn't buy a shot, and they eventually hit their stride," Arenas said. "We were getting good shots, but by that third quarter, we tried to run them out of the gym and it backfired a little bit."
Arenas's aggressiveness worked against the Wizards because once he started misfiring, the Mavericks pushed the ball hard the other way. His teammates were too often observers, especially during the third quarter, when Dallas held a 25-13 scoring advantage.
The Wizards wound up shooting 35.5 percent from the field, made 2 of 15 three-point attempts, and were outrebounded 57-43. The Wizards totaled a paltry 10 assists and committed 16 turnovers.
"We have to look in the mirror and realize that we're only successful when everyone's getting involved," said forward Caron Butler, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds on 4-of-9 shooting. "That's the only we can win."
The Mavericks experienced no such problems. Nowitzki scored 30 points on efficient 11-of-19 shooting, Harris and Jason Terry each added 18 points and the reserves outscored Washington's reserves 32-15. The Mavericks racked up 23 assists and made 14 of 34 three-point attempts.
The Wizards, Toronto Raptors (0-6), Memphis Grizzlies (0-6) and Los Angeles Clippers (0-3) are the only teams without a road win. The Wizards will attempt to separate themselves Wednesday night in Houston, a place they haven't won since 2001.
"I told them: 'Tonight was the first game of a three-game trip,' " Jordan said. "It's one loss and we have to suck it up because we have two more to win. It's as simple as that."