By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 8, 2009
After working through an especially brutal part of the schedule that included a string of games against NBA big boys such as New Orleans, Boston, Cleveland and Orlando, the Washington Wizards were presented with an opportunity last night against the struggling Toronto Raptors.
The game was the first of eight straight against teams with losing records, but the Wizards treated it like an unwanted Christmas present. They came out flat, fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter and never caught up en route to a 99-93 defeat in front of 13,864 at Verizon Center.
Despite shooting 46.4 percent, the Wizards (7-27) had their chances down the stretch, but as was the case in Tuesday's nine-point loss at Orlando, they couldn't finish.
The Wizards trailed by six with 3 minutes 17 seconds to play, but Antawn Jamison (32 points) missed a three-pointer, Nick Young was called for traveling and Mike James missed a jumper. Andrea Bargnani (25 points) essentially iced the win for the Raptors (15-21) when he came out of a timeout and drained a three-pointer, giving Toronto a 92-83 lead with two minutes to go.
The Wizards fell to 0-7 in the second game of a back-to-back set and 4-15 in games decided by 10 points or less.
"You look at the Orlando game and we were still upbeat because we lost to a very good team on its floor and we competed all the way down to the wire," said Caron Butler, who finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. "But when you come back the next day to a team like Toronto, which is a good team but a team missing some key players, and you come out . . . there's no excuse it being a back-to-back to be so flat. It just wasn't there tonight and that's frustrating."
No matter that they played without point guard José Calderón, center Jermaine O'Neal and forward Jamario Moon, the Raptors shot 54.4 percent and connected on eight of 16 three-point attempts.
U.S. Olympian Chris Bosh finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists and took over a for a key stretch of the fourth quarter by scoring nine straight points after the Wizards drew to 80-75 on a three-point play by Young (nine points).
Bargnani gave Toronto its largest lead at 46-25 when he drained a three-pointer over Andray Blatche with 4:17 left in the first half.
In addition to being hurt by Toronto's shooting touch, the Wizards were also crushed on the boards as the Raptors finished with a 39-28 rebounding edge. This despite the fact that the Raptors have a well-deserved reputation as a finesse team and entered the night as one of the league's least efficient rebounding squads.
"That's all about effort," Jamison said. "We just have to find a way to bring it night in, night out."
Toronto wasted little time putting the Wizards in an 8-2 hole at the start of the game.
The Raptors went on to shoot 70.6 percent in the first quarter and carried a 27-16 lead into the second. The Wizards have been outscored by an average of four points in the first quarter on the season.
"Tonight, we just took a lot of jump shots instead of driving the ball early on," Jamison said. "And then we waited until we were down by 16, 18 points before we started doing the things that got us back into it."
On Tuesday night, the Wizards were done in by a brutal second quarter when they set a franchise record by scoring just six points.
"I'm going to take the noble fight question, just get rid of it and ask: Why did we get down by" so many points so early?" interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "That is the crux of the matter. We met the opposition tonight and it was us. So, we took a step back defensively and offensively. Compared to the last few games we played, I'm not happy with the way we went into this game."
Wizards Notes: Guard DeShawn Stevenson, who missed his fourth straight game, received a shot in his troublesome lower back yesterday and will be reevaluated in 10 days to two weeks. Stevenson said a disk problem in the back has led to shooting pain that runs down his left leg. He hopes to avoid surgery. . . .
With his sixth rebound, Jamison became the eighth active player with at least 14,000 points and 6,000 rebounds. . . .
Rookie center JaVale McGee did not get off the bench for the third straight game as Tapscott again relied on a center rotation of Blatche, Darius Songaila and Etan Thomas.