By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 25, 2009
PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 24 -- The game was well out of hand by the time an errant pass by Wizards guard Juan Dixon led to a fast break dunk for Trail Blazers forward Travis Outlaw in the final minute Saturday night, but the play symbolized everything that went wrong in a 100-87 loss at the Rose Garden.
The Wizards (9-34) turned the ball over a season-high 27 times and the Trail Blazers converted those mistakes into 36 points. Portland's Brandon Roy was the driving force as he led a balanced attack by finishing with 22 points, 10 steals and 7 assists.
The Wizards went 1-3 on the four-game trip with blowout losses to the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers and Saturday's loss to Portland sandwiched around a victory over the Sacramento Kings. The Wizards have lost nine of their last 11.
Caron Butler led the Wizards with 31 points and 10 rebounds, but also had a season-high nine turnovers. Many of the team's turnovers were the product of sticky Portland defense.
"They are a long team, so we were trying to get into to the paint and make stuff happen," said Butler, who tweaked his back late in the game and was walking with a limp as he headed for the team bus. "You look for back doors and shovel passes and they got a lot of deflections and that allowed them to get into transition and really put some runs on us."
Still, the game was competitive until the third quarter when the Trail Blazers came up with several momentum-changing plays, including a pair of thunderous dunks by Greg Oden, three-pointers by Nicolas Batum and Sergio Rodriguez and a tip-in offensive rebound by Roy.
Oden added 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Portland led 73-55 entering the fourth quarter and then beat back a mini-push by the Wizards with another run that included three-pointers by Outlaw and Rudy Fernández as well as another dunk by Oden.
The Wizards' previous season-high for turnovers in a game was 22 in a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics on Dec. 11. They had 21 by the end of the third quarter Saturday night and the opportunistic Trail Blazers converted those miscues into 27 points.
The Trail Blazers still have some growing to do and probably a couple of moves to make before competing for a championship, but General Manager Kevin Pritchard has used sound drafting and wise personnel moves (plus the luck of landing the number one pick, and with it Oden, in the 2007 draft lottery) to assemble an exciting team that is long on character players with real talent.
Roy is the guy who makes it go. He took over by scoring 12 of his 22 points during the fourth quarter of Portland's 98-92 win at Verizon Center on Dec. 3 and on Saturday night, he contributed heavily to Washington's turnover problem by swiping seven steals in the first three quarters alone.
After turning the ball over 15 times in the first half, the Wizards were fortunate to only trail 39-31 going into the break. Portland shot only 31 percent from the field and connected on just 1 of 10 three-point attempts in the half but used a 10-4 first-quarter push to create a cushion that held up throughout the half.
Interim coach Ed Tapscott has constantly harped on his team to attack the basket and avoid settling for jump shots, and his players complied for much of the first half. But that is not an easy thing to do against a Portland front line that starts the 7-foot Oden and the 6-11 LaMarcus Aldridge and brings 7-foot Joel Przybilla and 6-9 Outlaw off the bench.
During one stretch late in the second quarter, Andray Blatche had his shot blocked by Outlaw, the Wizards had a shot clock violation and Butler had his shot blocked from behind by Roy while trying to release an attempt over Oden.
Rookie center JaVale McGee played only six minutes as Tapscott mostly elected to go small with either Blatche or Darius Songaila at center.
Juan Dixon, who had not played in the previous three games, scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
Wizards Notes: Guard DeShawn Stevenson missed his 13th straight game with a lower back injury but is nearing a return. Tapscott said he wants to see Stevenson participate in at least "a couple" practices before putting him into a game and Stevenson said he plans on trying to return at Philadelphia on Friday. . . .
Roy's 10 steals tied a franchise-record (Clyde Drexler and Larry Steele).