Wizards Closed Out by Magic In Home Opener, Fall to 0-3
Sunday, November 4, 2007
The Washington Wizards dug themselves a hole with a 4-9 start last season but rose to the top of the Eastern Conference standings before the all-star break. Following last night's 94-82 loss to the Orlando Magic in the home opener at Verizon Center, it appears they have a firm grip on the shovels once again.
The franchise last opened a season with three straight losses in 1992, when the Wizards were called the Bullets, home games were at Capital Centre and the 0-3 start eventually led to an ugly final record of 22-60.
No one is predicting such a finish this season, but the Wizards obviously have some work to do. After getting mauled in Boston on Friday night, the Wizards were competitive and had a chance to pull out a win last night, but forward Hedo Turkoglu scored nine straight Orlando points in the fourth quarter and a 12-5 Magic run caused a capacity crowd of 20,173 to head for the exits.
The Wizards had solid individual performances as Caron Butler scored 23 points and Brendan Haywood scored 10 points and matched a career high with 16 rebounds. But Washington shot 34.8 percent, committed 15 turnovers and failed to score on six straight possessions late in the fourth quarter.
The game was the third in four nights for the Wizards. They won't play again until Thursday night at New Jersey.
"I think we need to get into the gym and just go at each other," said guard DeShawn Stevenson, who has been a non-factor offensively. "We need to get one of those tough practices where everybody doesn't like each other, get that trash-talking going and make each other uncomfortable. I think right now, everyone is too relaxed and we don't play like that. Normally, we play with a chip on our shoulder. We have to get that attitude back."
The team is off today, and perhaps no player needs the break more than Gilbert Arenas, who finished with 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting, with six assists and six turnovers in just less than 40 minutes.
Arenas, who logged heavy minutes in the first two games, was not his usual aggressive self after making his first three shots last night. Afterward, he said his surgically repaired left knee felt "stiff."
"I have a lot of fluid in there right now," said Arenas, who had the knee drained during the preseason and said he may do so again. "It feels like I'm carrying a five-pound weight around. Playing [Friday night], I didn't get to ice it as well as I could have and with the cold building here, I didn't have time to get it loose. It will be fine Thursday -- tonight was just my first-back-to-back so it's an adjustment for my body."
Arenas is also struggling with his once-trusty jump shot. He missed all four three-point attempts last night and is 1 of 17 from long range this season. Antawn Jamison, who has thrived on three-point shooting as a Wizard, made 3 of 8 three-point shots last night and is 6 of 20 from long range overall.
"I know myself, personally, I don't have an answer right now," Arenas said. "I mean, I shoot all day, every day and I just haven't been able to transfer that to the game right now."
With two of his key players in shooting slumps and the team's defense breaking down at key times, Coach Eddie Jordan experimented with a few lineups last night.
Reserve guard Roger Mason and rookie forward Dominic McGuire got on the floor at the end of the first quarter, and Mason helped create a mini-run by making two three-pointers.
And at the start of the fourth quarter, Jordan went with a lineup of Butler, Mason, Andray Blatche, Darius Songaila and Antonio Daniels. That group built a 69-66 lead, but momentum swung Orlando's way when Jameer Nelson made three-pointers on consecutive possessions.
Turkoglu then asserted himself with an offensive flurry down the stretch as the Magic outscored the Wizards 30-15 in the fourth quarter.
"We can bounce back," Jordan said. "If this was three in a row in January, there would be no red flags. Since it is three in a row at the beginning of the season, we aren't in a rut. We are feeling good and we will bounce back."