Charlotte Shreds Wizards

emeka okafor - charlotte bobcats
Emeka Okafor puts a hurting on the rim as Jarvis Hayes makes a futile attempt at defense. Okafor has 17 points and 13 rebounds as the Bobcats shoot 57 percent to destroy the Wizards. (AP)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

CHARLOTTE, April 3 -- Going on the road and getting blasted by a lottery-bound team is no way to show that you are serious about winning your division, but that's what the Washington Wizards did Tuesday night in a 122-102 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.

Charlotte shot 57.3 percent, racked up 36 assists and held a comfortable double-digit lead from late in the second quarter on. The Wizards (39-34) dropped to 2-8 this season without all-star forward Caron Butler, who is scheduled to miss at least six weeks with a broken finger on his right hand, and dropped to sixth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Southeast Division, one-half game behind Miami.

The Wizards and Bobcats meet for the fourth and final time Wednesday at Verizon Center. The Wizards are 5-12 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season and will have to come up with a far better defensive effort than they gave Tuesday if they want to avoid consecutive losses.

"We didn't take the challenge defensively today," guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "We let Gerald Wallace do whatever he wanted to do and we let their point guards pass where they wanted to pass. This was just a horrible day for us defensively. If we want to be a playoff team we have to be better than that."

The Wizards fell behind by 18 late in the first half and were behind 97-78 entering the fourth quarter before finally showing some life behind forward Darius Songaila, who scored on four consecutive possessions to open the period and drew Washington within 13 on a layup.

The margin was reduced to 12 when Stevenson followed a block by Songaila -- one of the rare defensive plays made by a Wizard all night -- with a three-pointer. Yet, as was the case all night, the Wizards were unable to sustain the momentum because they couldn't get stops.

The Bobcats quickly regained control with consecutive baskets by Wallace (34 points, 14 rebounds) and a three-pointer by Walter Herrmann that pushed the lead to 114-96 lead with 3 minutes 28 seconds remaining.

Charlotte (29-46) came into the game averaging 96.3 points, but exceeded that on an easy layup by Jake Voskuhl late in the third quarter.

Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with 33 points and seven assists and Songaila finished with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting. All five Charlotte starters finished in double figures led by Wallace, Herrmann (21 points on 8-of-11 shooting) and point guard Raymond Felton (17 points, 14 assists).

Jarvis Hayes started in place of Butler and Etan Thomas made his second straight start at center in place of Brendan Haywood. Hayes was a non-factor offensively, making 1 of 6 shots. Thomas was one of the few bright spots as he finished 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting with 14 rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes.

The team is unlikely to replace the 19 points and seven rebounds Butler averages or his overall energy and toughness, so the only realistic way to win without him will be to crank up the intensity on defense and get contributions from up and down the lineup.

The defense was nonexistent Tuesday. Whether beating the Wizards with basic pick-and-roll action, dribbling past them from the perimeter, getting free off of screens or racing past them on the fast break, the Bobcats had it any way they wanted.

Antawn Jamison, who was unsuccessful in chasing Herrmann most of the night and finished with six points on 3-of-16 shooting, said it best.

"They played like a team that was fighting for playoff position and we played like a team that is going to go home in a few weeks," Jamison said. "We have to do better than that."

Wizards Notes: Rookie Mike Hall, the former George Washington star, made his NBA debut in the third quarter and finished with two points and a rebound in seven minutes. Hall was the last cut coming out of training camp but signed the first of two 10-day contracts on Feb. 28 and was picked up for the remainder of the season on March 20.

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