Without Wall, Wizards again stumble

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2010

SACRAMENTO - The Washington Wizards are a wildly unpredictable bunch, known to look undisciplined and focused, scrappy and apathetic, often in the same game. They also rarely arrive at an arena aware of which players they'll have available, which disrupts the establishment of chemistry and forces nearly every player to stay ready.

They were placed in another precarious situation against the Sacramento Kings, as Coach Flip Saunders was forced to change his starting lineup only minutes before tip-off after John Wall was unable to play with soreness in his left foot. Wall thought about playing, hoping that he just needed it taped better, before the Wizards decided that it would be best that he miss his seventh game of the season.

Kirk Hinrich was put back in the starting lineup, which had already been adjusted as Saunders gave rookies Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin the nod over the injured Andray Blatche and recently ineffective JaVale McGee. The lack of familiarity was evident as the Wizards committed 24 turnovers, which led to their 12th consecutive road loss of the season, 116-91. The loss was also the Wizards' fifth by 20 or more points.

Gilbert Arenas and Hinrich, the most seasoned players on the Wizards' roster, had 19 points and 18 points, respectively, but they combined for 10 of the turnovers. Al Thornton finally regained his rhythm after struggling in his past few games while recovering from a sprained left ankle. He scored a team-high 20 points, but a night after scoring a season-high 30 points in Los Angeles, Nick Young was held to just three points. McGee had 13 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

The Wizards were thoroughly outplayed by a Kings team that entered the game having lost eight in a row. But the Kings played a solid team game on Wednesday, handing out 27 assists compared with just 11 for the Wizards. They also outrebounded the Wizards, 48-36. Jason Thompson had 22 points and 14 rebounds while Beno Udrih had 23 points and six assists to lead the Kings (5-15). Pooh Jeter had 13 points and nine assists off the bench, stealing the ball from Arenas and tossing a lob to Thompson in the fourth period. The Kings scored 33 points off Wizards turnovers.

The Wizards probably were ready to head home at the end of the third period, when Tyreke Evans used a dribble juke to get some separation on Thornton. Evans stepped back and shot a three-pointer that bounced on the rim a few times before falling to give Sacramento a 22-point lead. Hinrich dropped his hands and shook his head in disbelief.

After the Wizards' 115-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, Wall mentioned that he had injured his foot twice. He attempted to run a few sprints about an hour before the game, but after going baseline-to-baseline a few times, Wall limped into the locker room. He missed four games with a sprained left foot a few weeks ago, then sat another with a bruised left knee. Although his injury is in the same foot, it is a different injury.

The new starting lineup was disastrous at the start, as the Kings quickly jumped out to a 12-2 lead. Thornton and Hinrich helped the Wizards battle back, with the duo combining for 13 points during a 16-4 run that help the team lead 27-26 after one quarter. Hinrich also assisted on one of the baskets, as he tossed a lob to McGee for an alley-oop dunk.

But Jason Thompson helped the Kings take control in the second period, scoring 10 of his 22 points as the Wizards were outscored 33-18.

The Wizards were unable to contain their frustration at times. At one point, Arenas waited for Booker to make a cut to the basket, but Booker never moved and the team was given a shot-clock violation. Arenas shouted at Booker, then went into the lane to show Booker where he needed to be for a catch and cursed. Arenas then shook his head and walking away, as assistant coach Randy Wittman came up to Booker to explain the mistake.

Near the end of the first half, Young was driving left when Udrih knocked the ball loose to force a turnover. Saunders put his hands above his head, and his emotions quickly went from anger, to pleasure, back to anger. Udrih tried to push the ball ahead, but Cartier Martin stole it right back, setting up a comedic sequence. Martin passed the ball to 6-foot-10 Seraphin at half court, which resulted in a predictable, terrible outcome. Seraphin dribbled up the floor and tried to force a pass to Young that Udrih stole right back. A turnover, steal and turnover in exactly six seconds.

Seraphin had four turnovers, with two coming to start the third period. Arenas found Seraphin cutting to the basket for what should've been a layup, but Seraphin wasn't expecting the pass and it squirted from his hands. He later committed an offensive foul while trying to set a pick to free Hinrich.

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