Changed Wizards stay same

Chicago's Carlos Boozer, left, gives new Wizard Rashard Lewis, with ball, a shove into Nick Young as they go for a rebound, while Kirk Hinrich watches.
Chicago's Carlos Boozer, left, gives new Wizard Rashard Lewis, with ball, a shove into Nick Young as they go for a rebound, while Kirk Hinrich watches. (John Mcdonnell)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 23, 2010

He could've had a highlight, but Andray Blatche had to deal with humiliation instead. Less than four minutes into Wednesday night's game, Blatche reached out, stole the pass from Chicago Bulls center Kurt Thomas and dribbled ahead the length of the floor for what should have been the easiest basket he would get all night. But as Blatche took off from just inside the paint for an uncontested dunk, the ball squirted from his hands, shot over the rim and hit the backboard, bouncing to Carlos Boozer.

It could've simply been an embarrassing play, but Blatche couldn't let it go.

"After that layup, I knew it was going to be a long night," Blatche said, "and it was."

Blatche's problems continued as the night went on, as he missed shots from all over the floor and turned over the ball the other times he touched it, leading fans at Verizon Center to boo him after nearly every miscue. And on a night when the Wizards welcomed Rashard Lewis to the fold, and Kirk Hinrich sought some payback against the team that traded him last offseason, the focus was on Blatche, who had one of his worst games of the season during an 87-80 loss.

"That was probably one of the worst funks I've ever been in in my career. And it just got worse and worse, the fans started booing me. Once that happened, it messed my whole head up," Blatche said after missing 11 of 14 shots and scoring just seven points with four turnovers. "Was I surprised by it? Yes, because they are our fans, they are supposed to support us. At the same time, if I'm playing like [garbage], they are going to let me know. It goes both ways."

Nick Young has 22 points to lead the Wizards (7-20), who again failed in their attempt to win back-to-back games this season. Lewis finally made his debut, four days after the Wizards acquired him from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Gilbert Arenas. Lewis entered the game with less than three minutes left in the first quarter and quickly rebounded a Blatche miss and laid in the ball to tie the game at 25. He then hit a baseline jumper to give the Wizards a 29-27 lead. Lewis scored eight points in all, but with the Wizards trailing, 83-80, with 90 seconds remaining, he missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game.

"I just didn't have a good rhythm," said Lewis, who missed all five of his three-point attempts and committed five fouls in 22 minutes. "I thought I was going to make that last one to tie the game. But it just didn't fall."

After losing to his former team last month, Hinrich got to welcome the Bulls to his new home for the first time. Matched up against Derrick Rose, the 2008 No. 1 overall pick he helped mentor into an all-star, Hinrich scored 19 points and led the team with nine assists. But he came away sporting a shiner below his left eye after absorbing a blow to the face, starting cramping in the fourth quarter and lost the ball during a critical possession in the final minute.

"Not other than any game," Hinrich said if there was any special emotion behind this game. "We need wins right now. I feel like we're taking steps in the right direction. It'll be nice to get some big wins. Just a tough one."

Rose scored 25 points with five rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots, and he was able to break down the Wizards and get to the basket at his leisure. The Wizards didn't have to worry about Carlos Boozer in their last meeting as Boozer was still out with a broken right hand. After losing their first two games with Boozer, the Bulls have won nine of their past 10 games with him. Boozer finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds and put the game away when he caught a pass from Rose and made a layup that gave them a five-point lead after Lewis's miss.

Rose gave the Wizards problems in the last meeting as well, when No. 1 overall pick John Wall sprained his left foot while trying to defend the speedy Rose. Wall has missed 12 of 18 games since then, with a bone bruise under his right kneecap the latest setback during an injury-plagued season.

Hinrich has been playing heavy minutes of late, with Wall injured and Arenas traded, and he ran the offense with precision in the first period, as the Wizards scored a season-high 33 points. Young scored 10 points in the period, connecting on two three-pointers. But the Bulls shut down the Wizards the rest of the game, limiting them to just 47 more points, including a season-low 10 in the fourth period.

"They are a good defensive team," Hinrich said of the Bulls. "We weren't moving the ball as well as we did earlier in the game, for whatever reason. I think that's why our scoring went down."

Late in the game, Hinrich found Blatche cutting to the basket. Blatche shot up toward the basket and Thomas swung for the ball and knocked Blatche's headband off his head. Blatche dropped to ground, held himself up by hands, and was dazed for several seconds. Fans again groaned when Blatche missed the first of two free throws.

When asked why he kept Blatche in the game, Coach Flip Saunders said: "He's one of our main guys. Part of development sometimes is getting your butt kicked. You can learn as much sometimes when you play bad, than when you play good. And, uh, I've got confidence in him that no matter how bad he's played, that down the stretch, he's going to be able to make a couple of plays for us."

The Wizards will take the next two days off, then practice on Christmas in San Antonio, where they will face the Spurs on Sunday. Blatche has been working himself back from injuries to his left knee and hip, but he wouldn't blame his problems against the Bulls on his health.

"Physically, I'm better. Mentally, I'm not. I get a little better physically, I'm mentally down now," Blatche said. "I come back, I try to redeem myself in San Antonio and Houston."

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