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Tired Wizards end West Coast trip quietly with 121-95 loss in Phoenix

Phoenix Suns' Amare Stoudemire (1) defends as Washington Wizards' Antawn Jamison puts up a shot in the first quarter in an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Phoenix Suns' Amare Stoudemire (1) defends as Washington Wizards' Antawn Jamison puts up a shot in the first quarter in an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) (Ross D. Franklin - AP)

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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 20, 2009

PHOENIX -- The last game of a long West Coast trip is usually a time when a team either summons extra energy to finish on a positive note or simply decides that it's time to go home. It was easy to figure out which option the Washington Wizards had chosen before halftime of their game against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

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While Steve Nash effortlessly ran the league's most efficient offense, spreading the ball to open teammates, the Wizards were content sitting back and watching Gilbert Arenas shoot and miss jumper after jumper. The problem was, the Suns were hitting nearly every shot they wanted, while Arenas was unable to bring the magic he had the previous night in Oakland, Calif.

After scoring 45 points and dishing out 13 assists in a win over Golden State, Arenas again led the Wizards with 22 points, but he missed 15 of the 21 shots he took in just more than 24 minutes and left the game late in third period with his team already trailing by 25 points. The Wizards went on to lose to the Suns, 121-95, at US Airways Center. They have lost seven of their past eight games.

"You can come up with excuses every night, why not to play -- 'It's a back-to-back. We've been on the road for eight days. It's the last game of the road trip.' " Coach Flip Saunders said. "If you want to be an average team those thoughts can't enter your mind. It's almost as though the last thing we wanted to do was be out there tonight. It's pretty much unacceptable."

The Wizards (8-17) had a miserable combination of poor shooting, limited ball movement and one-on-one play. They shot just 36.4 percent from the floor, had just 14 assists (and 14 turnovers) and allowed the Suns to shoot 51.6 percent. Amar'e Stoudemire led five Suns in double figures with 23 points and added a game-high 14 rebounds. Jason Richardson, back after missing the previous game with a sprained right hand, added 22 for the Suns (18-9), who improved to 10-0 at home and remain the league's only unbeaten team at home.

Nash had 15 points and 15 assists and didn't play in the fourth quarter, but he still finished with more assists than the Wizards for the second game in a row. When the Suns defeated the Wizards, 102-91, on Nov. 8, Nash finished with 17 assists -- two more than the entire Wizards team. Nash has equaled or surpassed the opposing team's assist total six times this season.

The Wizards were feeling a little better about themselves after snapping a six-game losing streak against the Warriors on Friday, but they arrived in Phoenix feeling more weary than anything else. Arenas had banged his right hip in Sacramento and aggravated it after a fall late in Friday's win. He complained of soreness before facing the Suns and said he had four massages on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m., before the team caught its flight back to Washington.

"When it hurts, sometimes I always get hit in it. Every pick-and-roll, boom! I kept getting hit in the side," Arenas said. "It was just wearing on me."

After playing his best overall game of the season with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists against the Warriors, Caron Butler walked out of Oracle Arena with his left ankle heavily wrapped. He tried to wear a different pair of shoes against the Suns with the hope that it would provide better cushioning for his feet. But Butler was ineffective, had no lift on his jumpers or drives and finished with just 10 points and three turnovers.

Antawn Jamison had taken some abuse in the previous two games. He suffered a mild left shoulder strain on Wednesday in Sacramento and then had a stinger on the left side of his neck after colliding with Warriors guard Stephen Curry. Jamison was getting treatment before Saturday's game, grimacing on a trainer's table as he moved his neck. Jamison finished with 15 points.

The Wizards finished 1-3 on this West Coast trip, with losses to the Los Angeles Clippers in which they blew a 17-point third-quarter lead and to Sacramento, when Arenas had the ball stolen from him in the closing seconds. They finally made some plays in the fourth quarter against Golden State, but in Phoenix, Saunders had pulled all of his starters in the third period.

"Those first two losses, would you rather lose by 30 or lose the way we did? You'd definitely rather take the latter of the two," Jamison said. "It's tough. Coming into this game, we knew it was going to be tough. We just have to communicate better on both ends of the floor."

Nick Young had 20 points and Randy Foye added 13 off the bench for the Wizards, who led 9-6 when Jamison made a three-pointer earlier in the first period. The Suns went on an 11-1 run over the next four minutes and never looked back.

Phoenix scored the first nine points of the second half, moving ahead 72-47 when Richardson caught a pass from Nash and buried a 15-foot jumper. Saunders was forced to surrender later in the period, when Nash whipped a pass to Jared Dudley for a wide-open three pointer, then fed Stoudemire for a vicious dunk that put the Suns ahead 102-69.

"We just didn't have the effort tonight. That's one of them teams that will embarrass you if you don't come out with that energy and they did," Arenas said.


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