Charlotte Bobcats cruise past Washington Wizards, 92-76

Charlotte Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace, left, goes to the basket against Washington Wizards forward Caron Butler during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Charlotte Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace, left, goes to the basket against Washington Wizards forward Caron Butler during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) (Nick Wass - AP)
By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 29, 2009

Their best rebounder failed to grab a rebound for the first in more than four years. Their best player at getting to the foul line failed to attempt a free throw. They had more turnovers than assists. So, it's easy to look at the box score and see that the Washington Wizards lacked the necessary energy and aggression to win on Saturday night against the Charlotte Bobcats.

But the deeper question, which had Coach Flip Saunders and his players stumped following their 92-76 loss to the Bobcats at Verizon Center: How could they deliver a performance that ranks just north of putrid after winning consecutive games for the first time this season?

The Wizards matched their season low in points scored and shot just 38.5 percent. Saunders had an easier time coming up with adjectives to describe how he felt afterward.

"Disappointed. Embarrassed. Mad," Saunders said after the Wizards (5-10) lost by double digits for the eighth time this season.

Caron Butler led the Wizards with 19 points and 7 rebounds, and center Brendan Haywood had 10 points and nine rebounds, but no one on the Wizards could be pleased with his performance. Gilbert Arenas had his season low for the second consecutive game, scoring just six points on 3-of-11 shooting with six assists and two rebounds.

He also didn't get the foul line for the first time this season after averaging about seven attempts per game. After the game, Arenas sounded perplexed about how he is going to balance scoring with spreading the ball.

"What do you expect me to do?" Arenas said. "Go out there and score 30? I'm not going to go out there and try to score 30 when we have a lot of offensive players here. Last game, I was 4 for 7, [on Saturday] I was 3 for 11. I'll take the shots I feel are sufficient for me. Other than that, the offensive load's on everybody else."

Asked if he felt fatigued after playing back-to-back games, Arenas said: "I'm fine. I still have my explosiveness. I'm still trying to figure out when I should use it."

Saunders sounded flustered about how to get Arenas going. "We're not doing anything to hold him back," he said. "I think he's going through a process right now. He's not shooting the ball. A lot of times, he's not quite getting on balance."

Antawn Jamison had been a double-double machine since returning to the team after missing the first nine games with a shoulder injury. He had four double-doubles in his first five games, averaging 24.8 points and 11.2 rebounds. Saturday night, Jamison finished with a season-low six points and zero rebounds in 27 minutes. It was the first time he had to grab a rebound while playing at least 26 minutes since he was a sixth man with the Dallas Mavericks six seasons ago.

"As far as individual numbers, when you lose, when you get your butt kicked like that, it's not going to go well," said Jamison, who couldn't remember the last game he didn't have a rebound. "It'll be a long time before that happens again."

Nick Young had been the surprising spark in the past two games, scoring a combined 42 points and keeping in check Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala and Miami's Dwyane Wade, but he also slowed down, finishing with just 10 points.

The game marked the first meeting between Gilbert Arenas and Gerald Wallace since Wallace fell into Arenas's left knee on April 4, 2007. Arenas has been attempting to regain his promising career ever since that encounter, with the Wizards also struggling to regain their footing in the Eastern Conference. When the two players crossed paths for the first time on Saturday, Arenas went up for a fastbreak layup but Wallace swooped in from behind to block the shot. Wallace led six players in double figures with 14 points and added 14 rebounds.

The Wizards were attempting to win three games in a row for the first time since April 2008. They used the emotion of the passing of longtime owner Abe Pollin to inspire them to victories against Philadelphia and Miami. But when they returned home after an impressive 94-84 win in Miami, the Wizards looked spent.

The Bobcats (7-9) took advantage of their listless opponent in the third period, scoring six consecutive points in the third quarter -- a Wallace fast-break layup, a Tyson Chandler alley-oop dunk and Boris Diaw fast-break layup -- to take a 65-43 lead with 3 minutes 53 seconds left in the period. The Wizards wouldn't get any closer than 15 points the rest of the game.

"You can't make excuses," Jamison said. "They had a back-to-back and they came out and played with more energy. They did everything right and we didn't. For us, it's tough to swallow. You take two steps forward and it seems you take three steps back."

The Wizards and Bobcats staged one of the worst halves of basketball this season, with the teams combining for just 74 points and taking turns making bad plays before halftime. The Wizards led the way, as they compiled a highlight reel of lowlights.

There was DeShawn Stevenson catching a pass from Butler, stepping in and shooting an air ball. Randy Foye and Charlotte's D.J. Augustin both failed to hit the ball on a jump ball, with Augustin meekly slapping the ball out of bounds. Young later shot an air ball from the left corner, but the Bobcats fumbled the rebound. When the Wizards regained possession of the ball, Butler gave it right back when he attempted to dribble the ball between his legs and kicked it out of bounds.

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