By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Any hopes the Washington Wizards had of breaking out of their early-season funk and grabbing their first win of the season were dashed during a sloppy stretch of the second half last night, one that suggested there is more wrong with the team than Gilbert Arenas's surgically repaired left knee.
After trailing the visiting Denver Nuggets 60-51 at halftime, the Wizards turned over the ball nine times in the span of eight minutes while the Nuggets made 9 of 14 shots en route to building a commanding lead they never relinquished in a 118-92 victory over Washington.
When Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony drained a three-pointer, pushing the Denver advantage to 22 points with 4 minutes 14 seconds remaining in the third, Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan called a timeout and a stream of boos rained down from a sellout audience at Verizon Center.
The Wizards showed little fight from that point in a defeat that dropped them to 0-5, matching the 1966-67 Baltimore Bullets for the worst start to a season in franchise history.
The Wizards will try to avoid a sixth straight loss tomorrow at Atlanta but it may not be easy. The Hawks have already beaten the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns at home this season.
"We have to find a way to get rolling because it's not rolling right now," said Antawn Jamison, who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds while making 6 of 17 shots. "When you're out there, you can see it, you feel it. Sunday, it needs to happen."
Arenas, who had the knee drained of fluid twice since Oct. 17, finished with 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting with four assists and four turnovers in 36 minutes. During a third-quarter timeout, Arenas gestured wildly with his arms while emphatically yelling.
Arenas did not speak to reporters after the game but his outburst may have had something to do with the fact that Anthony scored 12 straight Denver points to open the third quarter and nary a Wizard rose to stop him.
"That's between us," Jamison said. "It was one of those things we keep in house. He was just saying some things that needed to be said. It was too late, but that was just him showing some leadership. He was basically saying that you have to take the challenge. You can't let one guy [Anthony] dictate to you like that."
Caron Butler helped the Wizards get off to a decent start by scoring 14 of his team-high 21 points in the first quarter, but the story of the game was told in the third quarter.
The Nuggets converted 12 Washington turnovers into 17 points, made half of their shots and outscored the Wizards 33-11.
For the Nuggets, the blowout was a form of sweet redemption because they were on the receiving end of a 119-93 beating in Boston on Wednesday night. That loss was worse than the final score might indicate, considering the Celtics led 77-38 at the half.
In addition to Anthony, the Nuggets received strong performances from Allen Iverson (15 points, eight assists) and Marcus Camby (13 points, 12 rebounds). They also put on a show by tossing several alley-oops for dunks. Denver shot 51.1 percent, made 12 three-pointers and forced 26 turnovers, a season high for the Wizards.
While the 0-5 start is ugly, recent Washington teams have bounced back from similar skids. Last season, the Wizards suffered through three losing streaks of four games or more, including a six-game skid in April that took place after Arenas and Butler went down with season-ending injuries.
During the 2005-06 season, when they finished 42-40, the Wizards went through a four-game losing streak and two five-game skids.
Jordan's message to his team following the game could not have been more blunt.
"Basically, I said that it was one of the most disappointing games I've ever been involved in," Jordan said. "I said that this team is capable of winning more games than it can lose. There is a sense of urgency upon us now."
Wizards Notes: The Wizards and Miami Heat, which dropped to 0-5 with a loss to the Phoenix Suns last night, are the only winless teams in the Eastern Conference. . . . Guard DeShawn Stevenson went scoreless for the second straight game. He missed all six of his shot attempts in 18 minutes last night after going 0 for 4 in just more than 13 minutes during Thursday's loss at New Jersey. . . . Third-year forward-center Andray Blatche posted season highs in minutes played (21), points (11) and rebounds (8).