By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 6, 2008
MILWAUKEE, Nov. 5 -- There were all kinds of goofy statistical nuggets attached to the Wizards' 112-104 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, but the only one that really matters is this: 0-3.
That is Washington's record and while it is still early in the NBA season, there is no question that the Wizards are searching for answers.
The main culprits Wednesday night were sloppy play (the Bucks scored 35 points off of 20 Washington turnovers), missed free throws (the Wizards made 34 of 51 attempts from the line) and an inability to make plays in overtime when the Bucks outscored the Wizards 14-6.
Coach Eddie Jordan was visibly upset when he emerged from the locker room and during his postgame comments to reporters he issued a warning to his struggling team.
"That was not NBA basketball, it's as simple as that," Jordan said. "There were no NBA plays being made out there. We addressed them tonight in the locker room, so I'm going to put a careful eye on our personnel and what we are doing out there. I think the trend is telling me something. I'm trying to be loyal to NBA vets and the continuity theme but I'm growing very impatient with it."
Caron Butler led the Wizards with 27 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists but he had a hand in the loss with five turnovers, including one that allowed the Bucks to tie the game at 96 on a fast-break dunk by Ramon Sessions with 1 minute 16 seconds remaining in regulation.
"I was trying to make a move, trying to take advantage of an opportunity and I lost the ball," Butler said. "Sessions went the length of the court and got a bucket to put them back in the game. You make mistakes and that was a heartbreaker because we had a chance to win that game."
Richard Jefferson led the Bucks (3-2) with 32 points and nine assists.
The Wizards got off to a slow start and trailed by 18 in the first quarter but used a dominant second quarter to take control. Washington outscored the Bucks 28-9 in the second with contributions coming from throughout the lineup. The trend continued in the second half as the Wizards built a 14-point lead when Butler followed a 16-foot jump shot with a layup to cap a fast break.
The lead was 78-66 entering the fourth quarter but that was when things began to slip away, and much of the damage was done by the Wizards themselves. They shot 28.6 percent in the final period, committed six turnovers and allowed rookie Luc Mbah a Moute to make a huge impact by scoring seven of his 17 points in the period.
Mbah a Moute, the team's second-round pick out of UCLA, also defended Wizards all-star Antawn Jamison for a chunk of the game and in overtime. He helped ice the game with a pair of scores, including an 11-foot jumper that gave his team a 108-102 lead with 37 seconds to play.
"When I'm out there, I look at myself as a basketball player trying to make plays," said Mbah a Moute, who missed an open shot that would have won the game in the closing seconds of regulation. "If you have an open shot, all my teammates always tell me at practice you have to take the shot because if you don't, we put ourselves in a bad situation. I just try to put myself out there and help the team win by making plays."
Jordan, meanwhile, continues to look for similar strong play from his own youngsters and he saw some Wednesday night.
Second-year guard Nick Young scored 14 points off the bench, rookie center JaVale McGee was solid in 13 minutes of play with nine points and five rebounds, and second-year forward Dominic McGuire grabbed six rebounds in 14 minutes and gave the Wizards some momentum by tapping in a Jamison miss at the end of the third quarter.
Still, those contributions weren't enough to beat a Milwaukee team that was playing without Michael Redd, who was out with a sprained ankle.
Three Wizards starters (Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson and Andray Blatche) combined to score 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Jamison, whose lip split open in the first half, finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds but hit only 6 of 19 shots.