Wizards' Trip West Begins on Flat Note

Washington Wizards' Brendan Haywood (33) tries to block a shot by Portland Trail Blazers' Brandon Roy (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday March 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)
Washington Wizards' Brendan Haywood (33) tries to block a shot by Portland Trail Blazers' Brandon Roy (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday March 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens) (Greg Wahl-stephens - AP)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

PORTLAND, Ore., March 25 -- If the Washington Wizards hope to turn the season's longest trip into a success, they had better bring more energy, discipline and defensive focus to the court than they did during a 102-82 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Despite playing without second-leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) and losing leading scorer and top assist man Brandon Roy to a groin injury in the first quarter, the Trail Blazers had no problem finding high-percentage shots and securing rebounds. Portland shot well over 50 percent for most of the game, connected on nine three-pointers and never trailed.

The Wizards airballed two of their first three shots and quickly found themselves behind by 10 with 5 minutes 29 seconds to play in the first quarter. Portland led by 16 at halftime and blew open the game with an 11-5 run at the start of the third quarter.

"They came out and gave us a good knockout punch," Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "And we didn't recover."

The Wizards (36-34) continue their five-game trip Wednesday night at Seattle and won't have the luxury of playing at home again until next Wednesday night, when they play host to Milwaukee.

The Wizards had won four straight on the road and were hoping to make the Trail Blazers their fifth sweep victim this season but didn't bring nearly enough "juice," as Coach Eddie Jordan put it.

Caron Butler led the Wizards with 19 points but made just 6 of 20 shots, and point guard Antonio Daniels (14 points, eight assists) was the only Washington player who had anything resembling a decent game.

Antawn Jamison, who averaged 25.2 points and 10.3 rebounds in his previous 10 games, finished with nine points on 3-of-13 shooting and added eight rebounds. The Wizards shot 35.8 percent and were outrebounded 55-36.

Even after taking a seat on the bench after the game turned into a blowout, the Wizards' starters were forced to suffer the indignity of listening to fans inside the Rose Garden cheer wildly when a late score pushed the Trail Blazers over the 100-point mark, entitling everyone in the house a free chalupa from a local fast food establishment.

"One team could shoot straight, and one team couldn't," Jordan said. "One team could rebound; the other team couldn't. I thought their small lineup, speed and quickness hurt us in transition. They made shots, and like I said, we didn't make shots even when we got the ball where we wanted to."

The game turned to stay shortly after Roger Mason Jr. capped a 10-2 run for the Wizards by making a three-pointer with 7:29 remaining in the second quarter. Portland answered with five straight points and then closed the half on a 13-4 run, which Fort Washington native Jarrett Jack capped by scoring the final seven points on an 18-foot jumper, a three-pointer and a 16-foot jumper.

Much of the run came after Jordan replaced reserves Mason, Andray Blatche and Darius Songaila with starters Stevenson, Jamison and Brendan Haywood with four minutes left in the half.

"I thought our bench kept us in the game," Jordan said. "Our starters came back in and they closed out the half and then they came out still smoking at the start of the second half."

Jack scored nine of his 17 points during the second period, when he also picked up four of his six assists.

"We were able to get into a pretty nice rhythm early on," Jack said. "Everybody helped carry us in the first half and pretty much into the second half."

The Wizards remain alone in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but lead Philadelphia by just a half-game.

Wizards Notes: The Wizards beat Seattle, 108-86, at Verizon Center on Jan. 6 behind Butler's 33 points. The Wizards are 6-10 in the second game of a back-to-back set this season. . . .

If Sonics owner Clay Bennett is cleared to follow through with his plan to move the franchise to Oklahoma City following the season, Wednesday's game would mark Washington's last visit to the city where the Bullets captured the 1978 NBA championship with a 105-99 victory in Game 7 of the Finals.

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