New Orleans Hornets defeat Washington Wizards, 115-110
Monday, January 11, 2010
Antawn Jamison was hitting those awkward floaters and hooks. Brendan Haywood was catching the ball inside for easy layups and dunks. Nick Young was knocking down fadeaway jumpers. Randy Foye was going toe-to-toe with all-star point guard Chris Paul, driving to the basket and making sweet passes to his teammates. And after the game, Coach Flip Saunders was quoting Albert Einstein.
With their best player, Gilbert Arenas, currently not allowed to come near the team, the Washington Wizards did just about everything right on Sunday. They had more rebounds and shot the ball better than the New Orleans Hornets.
But Saunders didn't invoke Einstein because of his genius coaching; it was because of the way the Wizards kept turning over the ball, which proved most costly in a 115-110 loss at Verizon Center. The Wizards (12-23) committed 19 turnovers, including three on four possessions late in the fourth quarter, when the Hornets turned a tie game into a seven-point lead in less than two minutes.
"It's like Einstein said: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," Saunders said. "If we continue to turn the ball over, these are the results that happen."
Saunders is probably going a little crazy because he remains stuck on career win No. 599. When the season began, he surely couldn't have expected that he would still be in search of his 600th victory in the second week of January. But that remains the case for Saunders and the Wizards, who shot 57.5 percent and had five players score in double figures but continue to find ways to lose -- games and players.
Shooting guard Mike Miller returned on Friday after missing the previous 21 games with a strained right calf and helped the Wizards get an emotional win over the Orlando Magic. But Miller was limited to just five points in about 14 minutes against the Hornets and was forced to leave the game early in the third quarter after his injured calf flared up again. After the game, Miller lowered his head, pulled a scarf over it and appeared somewhat choked up as he explained that he would need an MRI exam on Monday to make sure he didn't do any serious damage to the leg.
"I just couldn't move," Miller said. "It's like playing with a spasm in your leg. I think it's from playing a lot of minutes the other night. Maybe I came back a little early, who knows? I hope it's nothing serious."
Jamison led the Wizards with 32 points and also had eight rebounds, but he didn't touch the ball for more than five minutes after giving the Wizards a 96-95 lead with 6 minutes 4 seconds remaining. "You can't keep on going to him. You have to give him a little bit of a blow," Saunders said. "We shot 58 percent from the field, so it wasn't our ability to score. It's a matter of our ability not to turn the ball over to get in position to score."
Young had a pregame chat with Tim Floyd, his former coach at Southern California and a Hornets assistant, who encouraged him to "keep doing it." Young responded by scoring 20 points, including a layup and fadeaway jumper to tie the score at 101. On the next possession, Young drove to the hoop but instead of taking another shot, he tried an over-the-shoulder pass to Brendan Haywood that went over Haywood's hands and out of bounds.
Paul (26 points, 14 assists) answered with a 15-foot jumper and Young again lost the ball on the next possession, setting up a James Posey three-pointer that gave the Hornets a 106-101 lead. After Paul made 1 of 2 free throws, Foye (season-high 23 points, eight assists) hit a three-pointer to bring the Wizards within three, but after another Paul jumper, Foye dribbled the ball out of bounds following a poor exchange with Young. "We fought so hard," Young said. "To have that happen at the end, it hurts."
Haywood was 7 for 7 from the field and had 14 points and 14 rebounds. He has made 13 consecutive shots over the past two games, becoming the first Wizards player to accomplish that feat since former No. 1 pick Kwame Brown in March 2004. "I don't want that record. I don't want to be with him," Haywood said.
The Wizards are now 1-2 since the NBA suspended Arenas indefinitely on Wednesday. Fans arriving at the arena were welcomed with a "Wizards Care" banner on the Sixth Street facade of the building, replacing the one that featured Arenas. The slogan on the new banner reads: "On your team, on the court and in the community, Wizards care."
DeShawn Stevenson honored Arenas by writing the words, "AGENT" and "ZERO," in red marker on the tape around his shins and just above the tops of his shoes. "He's still part of the team, right?" Stevenson said. "He's my brother. I'm going to stick with him through rough times."
Jamison added that it's a difficult time for the team to be without Arenas. "But you have to be professional about it and go out there and play the game. He's always going to come across our minds," Jamison said of Arenas, "and you just wish he was playing with you."