Wizards' stay winless on road

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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 2, 2010

TORONTO - Flip Saunders called timeout after the Toronto Raptors made yet another uncontested jump shot and as a frustrated Gilbert Arenas walked to the huddle, he called for JaVale McGee and lifted his left arm.

Arenas didn't have to say anything, because the message was simple. The Washington Wizards weren't going to stop anybody at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday if they didn't get back to a basic defensive principal: raise your hands.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, Arenas's gesture was much too late. It was only the second quarter, but the Raptors were already up by 21 and had scored on the Wizards with the ease of a pre-game layup line, driving and dunking repeatedly on an apathetic - or rather nonexistent - defense. And, nothing changed for the rest of the game, as the Wizards eventually suffered a humiliating 127-108 defeat to set a new franchise record for road futility to start a season, with nine losses.

"Just an embarrassing effort," Saunders said. "There are always ways you can make excuses, being on the road, a long trip, playing every other day in different cities, but that's what this league is about. Very disappointed."

Saunders's disappointment actually began at what he called a "non-communicative shootaround" in which the players went through the motions. No. 1 overall pick John Wall, who made his return after missing the previous two games with a bruised left knee, said Saunders questioned his team's ability to perform against the Raptors.

"To hear your head coach say he doesn't have faith in you, that early in the morning, that hurt," Wall said after coming off the bench to score 19 points with eight assists. "And then we went out and proved exactly what he thought."

The Wizards (5-12) have had embarrassing road losses this season against Orlando and Boston - two teams expected to contend for the Eastern Conference crown - but they entered this game trailing the Raptors by a half-game in the standings. And, when the teams met at Verizon Center two weeks ago, the Wizards recorded their most decisive victory of the season, as they romped Toronto by 15 points.

The rematch wasn't very competitive after the first quarter, as Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan were scoring as if the Raptors had somehow brought back Chris Bosh and Vince Carter in his prime. The Raptors had 36 of their 62 points in the paint in the first 15 minutes. After scoring just 78 points in their previous game at home against Atlanta, they had a season-high 72 points at halftime. They also dominated the Wizards on the glass, outrebounding them, 52-30.

Saunders is usually pacing the sideline for an entire game, shouting out plays and direction. But when the Wizards came out for the second half, he was seated on the bench, angrily watching the debacle unfold. "Listen, when you are outrebounded by 20, when you give up 60-some points in the paint, that's effort. That's just not digging in and fighting," Saunders said.

The Wizards arrived at the arena without reserve forward Hilton Armstrong, who was suspended for one game for shoving an airborne Joel Anthony in a 105-94 loss to the Heat on Monday. But regular starters Wall and Al Thornton returning from their respective injuries did little to provide a boost for the team, which has now lost four games in a row.

DeRozan led seven Raptors in double figures with 20 points, with Bargnani and Sonny Weems both adding 18. The game began to unravel for the Wizards in the second period, when Bargnani and Barbosa combined to go on a 13-4 run.

Bargnani, the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, drove and dunked on McGee to start the period and showed his versatility as he hit pull-up jumpers and scored in the post. The Raptors (7-11) scored 38 points in the period, taking 68-45 lead when DeRozan buried a three-pointer. They brought joy to the fans by rewarding them with free pizza for topping 100 points - when reserve guard Jerryd Bayless made driving layup to give his team a 101-77 lead with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter.

"That's a video game," Wall said. "That's like something studying video games so much, that he know exactly when he shoot it and get any shot he wanted and that's how [the Raptors] felt. They could get any shot they want. They was getting dunk after dunk, layup after layup."

McGee led the Wizards with 21 points, Andray Blatche had 17 and Kirk Hinrich had 15, but Arenas had his worst shooting performance of the season, missing his first nine shots before finally making a driving layup with 3:45 left in the third period. Arenas declined to talk after the game.

"We're very frustrated right now, with our inability to go out there and perform and put forth a winning effort on any given night," Hinrich said, when asked about opening the season with nine straight road losses. "You don't want to have that kind of record, but at the same time, I wouldn't say that's the most disappointing thing. I just think record or no record, our play has been disappointing regardless.

"We're professional players," Hinrich said. "We're expected to go out there and just perform. That's what we get paid to do and we're not doing it."


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