By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sensing the need for some kind of change, Washington Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott adjusted his starting lineup last night, benching rookie JaVale McGee in favor of Andray Blatche in hopes that the move would pay dividends against the equally troubled Indiana Pacers.
Little, however, has gone according to plan for the Wizards this season. And last night, things weren't about to start changing.
Blatche scored 19 points in just his second start of the season. But his surprising offensive showing provided such little consolation that after Washington's 118-98 loss to the Pacers, Blatche blasted his own effort.
"I don't feel I gave 101 percent of effort rebounding," said Blatche, pointing to his two rebounds as evidence. "We've got to step it up. That's what killing us. We had the game tied and we just didn't rebound or play defense. Rebounding is just effort. I didn't rebound, so I didn't give that much effort."
The Wizards lost their third straight game by stubbing their toes on all of their usual obstacles.
After trailing by 14 at halftime, Caron Butler hit a three to tie the game at 83 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter. But once the fourth quarter started, the Wizards retreated into their customary late-game backslide, which allowed the Pacers to pull away.
"It seems to me we got a little fatigued, a little disappointed, and it snowballed from there," Tapscott said. "We've got to break this pattern. We've got to find a way out."
For the 14th time this season, the Wizards allowed an opponent to crack the 100-point mark, much of which was the result of Washington's rebounding struggles.
The Pacers outrebounded the Wizards 55-41, with a large part of the disparity coming on the offensive glass, which the Pacers dominated 23-11. Indiana used the advantage to score 18 second-chance points, which proved to be a difference-maker.
"Our effort is just poor right now," Blatche said, expanding his criticism to include the entire team. "We have a lot of picking up to do."
Several times, the crowd of 14,502 dished out another indignity, booing as the home team languished. Some of the loudest protests came during one sequence in the first half, when Indiana's Jeff Foster converted on a putback to give his team a double-digit lead, only after the Wizards failed to corral two chances at the rebound.
"It's embarrassing when you get booed at home in front of your crowd," said Antawn Jamison, who grabbed 15 rebounds. "And that's something we don't want to ever happen again."
Danny Granger led Indiana with 27 points, and Marquis Daniels added 20 on 10-for-17 shooting.
Pacers center Roy Hibbert, the former Georgetown star, scored only two points and was without a field goal in his Washington homecoming. But it hardly mattered as Indiana ended its six-game losing streak.
Jamison and Butler tied for the team lead with 26 points. But it wasn't enough to offset scant production from the Wizards bench, which accounted for a paltry 16 points.
Over the weekend, Tapscott foreshadowed a possible lineup shift, with McGee's minutes taking a hit in recent days. The signs of a change were strongest in Saturday's loss to Philadelphia, when Blatche claimed most of the playing time as McGee watched from the bench.
Tapscott hoped Blatche's presence would help the Wizards avoid another slow start. And after film review this weekend, Tapscott banked on Blatche to bolster the team's performance on defense. Blatche, Tapscott said, looked better on his defensive rotations while working in tandem with Jamison. Besides, Tapscott reasoned, McGee might benefit from the chance to watch the Pacers' game plan unfold during the game's opening minutes.
However, whatever defensive benefits Tapscott expected from the switch never materialized, as the Wizards ceded control of the paint to the Pacers. The lineup change had failed in its primary objectives.
"I've been here for four years," Blatche said. "In the four years, this is the worst it's been for us."