By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 22, 2009
SAN ANTONIO -- Saturday's game was supposed to be a matchup of underachieving teams, grappling with injuries and ever-changing lineups, but before the night was over, the San Antonio Spurs appeared to figure out what may cure their ills -- and it started with the healthy return of Tony Parker.
The Washington Wizards, however, remain a dysfunctional unit, unable to do more than one thing well at a time.
One night after scoring in bunches but failing to defend against Oklahoma City, the Wizards played better defensively for one half against the Spurs but were unable to put the ball in the basket. They shot a season-low 33.3 percent and lost for the 10th consecutive time in San Antonio, 106-84, at AT&T Center.
The game was costly on several fronts, as the Wizards also lost starting shooting guard Mike Miller to a strained right calf in the first period. Miller is going to get an MRI when the team returns to Washington. Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said Miller could miss four to five weeks. "He might've popped it," he said. "We'll have to see."
As the Wizards continue to slide, the hole grows deeper, and the situation grows more baffling and bleak. The Wizards are 3-9, a record that seems inconceivable considering the talent on the roster. But it is even more troubling when you consider that they were 2-10 after 12 games last season -- with Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood sidelined -- and already on to their second coach after firing Eddie Jordan. They finished that season 19-63.
"We haven't been able to put everything together," Saunders said. "Players are playing tight. Players are frustrated. You have players that aren't playing that feel like they should be playing. We're just really in a bad situation right now."
Arenas wasn't around for much of the misery last season, but he has suited up for every game this season. He led the Wizards with 18 points, but he missed 11 of his 18 shots. Antawn Jamison, playing just his third game this season, failed to record a double-double for the first time, but he also was off target, scoring 15 points on just 4-of-12 shooting. Caron Butler finished with just eight points, missing 6 of 9 field goal attempts. The Wizards are just 1-2 with their three all-stars playing together and they have lost their past two games by a combined 41 points.
"I don't think we adjusted. I think Mike Miller getting hurt really hurt us. He's one of our best ball-movers and scorers on the perimeter," Wizards center Brendan Haywood said. "It's like the same old thing every game. They came out tough. We started playing one-on-one. We started taking bad shots. Can't do it."
The Wizards shot just 28.6 percent but trailed just 52-40 at halftime as they held the Spurs to just 41.2 percent shooting. Unable to hit shots, they eventually slacked off on the defensive end, letting the Spurs build a 30-point lead in the second half. In his first game back after missing four of the past five games, Parker led the Spurs with 17 points and eight assists. Tim Duncan had 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and Richard Jefferson, whom the Spurs acquired in a three-team deal with Milwaukee and Detroit, added 15 points. Former Wizard Roger Mason Jr. finished with 11 points.
The Spurs used Fabricio Oberto in their package to get Jefferson. In his first game against the team for which he played his first four NBA seasons, Oberto finished with two points and four rebounds. Before leaving the floor, Oberto embraced Duncan and his former coach, Gregg Popovich.
Randy Foye finished with 10 points for the Wizards and started in the second half in place of the injured Miller.
Miller got hurt with 4 minutes 44 seconds left in the first quarter when Arenas got fouled on a layup and landed on his leg. Miller immediately reached for his leg and limped to the bench. He eventually had to be assisted to the locker room by Dominic McGuire and head athletic trainer Eric Waters.
Miller was playing his third game after returning from a sprained left shoulder injury that caused him to miss three games. Miller aggravated his shoulder injury the night before in Oklahoma City but finished 34 minutes and said he would continue to play through the pain. He scored four points on Saturday, converting a nifty behind-the-back ball fake before making a layup that gave the Wizards a 12-10 lead.
After colliding with Miller, Arenas made the free throw to bring the Wizards within 18-16. The Wizards would initially make a short push without Miller, but after Arenas knocked down a 13-foot jumper to them ahead 21-18 the game would slip out of control.
The Spurs went on a 15-0 run, taking advantage while the Wizards settled on taking quick, out-of-rhythm jumpers. The Wizards failed to score on seven consecutive possessions, with the team missing six field goal attempts -- four of them jumpers -- and Andray Blatche getting called for a travel.
Duncan initiated the run for the Spurs with his shooting and passing. He handed out three assists and knocked down his patented five-foot bank shot. Foye drove to the basket but Theo Ratliff blocked the shot, setting a one-man fast-break layup for Parker that gave the Spurs a 33-21 lead.