Washington Wizards lose third straight, 102-86 at Indiana

By Michael Lee
Saturday, November 7, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- The frustration could be heard moments after the Washington Wizards' 102-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers as a voice, shouting expletives, boomed from the locker room. It belonged to Antawn Jamison, who didn't play on Friday night but was infuriated by the lethargic and listless display of his teammates. Jamison didn't mince his words, challenging every player in the locker room, young and old, and peppered his speech with curse words to get his point across.

Jamison stormed out of the locker room after his profanity-laced rant and shouted, "Ain't nothing funny about this!"

The frustration could be seen upon entering the locker room, as a shattered fruit plate rested against a wall, cantaloupe, grapes and strawberries scattered everywhere, symbolizing an already splintered team. Six games into a season that was meant to be about redemption, the Wizards (2-4) are already confused about the path they want to take -- and if they want to take it together.

"It's just going down the tube right now," Gilbert Arenas said after scoring a season-low 13 points, which allowed him to surpass 10,000 for his career.

After a flat finish against Cleveland and a flat start against Miami, the Wizards were flat from start to finish against the Pacers, who took advantage of the seemingly disinterested team. The Wizards lost their third game in a row, continuing what have become some troubling trends. They relied heavily on one-on-one play, had limited ball movement and again had more turnovers (19) than assists (16).

The Wizards arrived in Indiana with Jamison, their starting power forward, nattily dressed in a navy sport coat at the end of the bench with a right shoulder injury and their starting shooting guard, Mike Miller, back home in Washington nursing a sprained left shoulder. And, with his team playing with the intensity of a game of shuffleboard, Coach Flip Saunders spent the entire night searching for something, anything to spark his team. He called on all 12 players on his active roster, giving Mike James his first action of the season and also playing Paul Davis. But everywhere he went, Saunders got the same results.

"I was trying to get someone to play hard," Saunders said. "I told those guys, I can't coach effort. You got to come out and be prepared and play hard.

"I thought our effort was poor. I was extremely disappointed. I told them I take responsibility because evidently right now we've got to keep pounding away because we're not getting through in doing the things we need to do in order to be successful."

Caron Butler vowed to be more aggressive offensively and not watch the show. He certainly came out more determined, but his shots weren't falling. He scored a team-high 24 points, but he made just 8 of 21 shots, even missing a baseline dunk in the third quarter.

Arenas wasn't shy about taking 27 shots Wednesday night against Miami, but he was unusually passive as he scored a season-low 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. He took only four shots in the second half, although he was guarded mostly by T.J. Ford, not known as a great defender.

"You take 27 shots a couple of nights before and you try to get everybody involved. Twenty-seven shots, four assists. Ten shots, four assists. You can't win for losing," Arenas said. "If we keep having games where we have more turnovers than assists, you're never going to win. No matter who we play, if we keep playing like this, we're going to keep getting our [butts] whipped."

With Miller out for at least another week, Saunders decided to give Nick Young his first start of the season, hoping that Young would embrace the opportunity. In the first two minutes of the game, Young hit a three-pointer and had a blocked shot, but he missed his next two shots and his energy level dropped, forcing Saunders to look elsewhere.

Young, though, was the only starter to not commit a turnover in the first quarter. Pacers all-star forward Danny Granger (22 points) had four steals in the first six minutes as Indiana built a 14-point lead in the first half. Randy Foye (16 points) brought the Wizards within 66-58 when he made two free throws with 4 minutes 56 seconds remaining in the third period, but the Pacers responded with a 10-0 run. They extended the lead to 98-76 when Dahntay Jones hit a jumper with 4:50 remaining.

"We've got to get better as a team, from the starting unit to the bench, you got to be ready to play at a certain level. If you're not ready to play at that level, don't play," Brendan Haywood said after grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds. "You're not always going to make shots, but you can control your effort. Indiana as a team played harder than us."

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