Wizards fall into typical pattern
Thursday, January 20, 2011
MILWAUKEE - As Andray Blatche got dressed in the visitor's locker room at Bradley Center on Wednesday night, he stopped and said, to no one in particular, "I'm getting tired of going home feeling sorry for ourselves."
The Washington Wizards probably should've reached the point of exhaustion some time ago with their season-long road woes. But for the 20th time, they boarded their charter plane back to Dulles International Airport after yet another loss away from home. With a 100-87 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, the Wizards (12-28) became the sixth team in NBA history to open a season 0-20 on the road.
"I don't have no excuses. I don't know what's going on," Blatche said after scoring a team-high 23 points with seven rebounds. "It's getting tough, it's getting frustrating."
There has been little mystery as to how the Wizards keep losing, with the similar trends - long offensive droughts sparked by limited ball movement, defensive breakdowns - playing out with consistency.
"Same as every road game," Kirk Hinrich said. "We don't move the ball on offense or run our sets. Defensively, we can't get stops. It's pretty much the same things that always happen to us."
It's gotten to the point where encouraging signs from previous games mean nothing. So what that the Wizards had won consecutive games for the first time this season, or that they were coming off an impressive win against the Utah Jazz on Monday. But that success came with a caveat: the Wizards were at Verizon Center, where they are more comfortable and play with more composure.
The Wizards are frazzled on the road, where the colors of their uniforms change from white to blue and seemingly so do the inhabitants. They arrived at Bradley Center feeling confident about their chances against the Bucks (15-24), a team that had lost three games in a row and six of seven overall and was playing without three starters in Brandon Jennings, John Salmons and Carlos Delfino.
But no matter how weakened their opponent, the Wizards find a way let other players take star turns. After Washington took an early 12-point lead, the Bucks got unexpected production from Keyon Dooling and former Wizard Earl Boykins, who combined to score 42 points, with Corey Maggette adding 21.
"We can't let guys like that pick us apart. Not taking anything away from their games, because all of them played great, but we have to do a better job of guarding them," John Wall said after scoring 10 points and handing out 13 assists. "Back home, we have so much energy and bounce in our step on defense, but on the road, it's horrible, man."
Wall had more assists (seven) than the Bucks had field goals (five) in the first quarter and spread them around to five teammates. He found shooters and create ways to distribute the basketball. While leading a three-on-one break with Blatche and Nick Young, Wall dribbled and paused near the foul line, waving his hands around like a fortune teller working a crystal ball, then tapped the ball to his left side to Young, who finished with a layup.
Wall hit a pull-up jumper to give his team a 31-19 lead, but the Bucks suddenly got some shots to fall and the Wizards lost their offensive cohesion. Blatche converted a three-point play to give the Wizards a two-point lead at halftime before the Bucks scored the first eight points of the third quarter. The Wizards went just 5 for 20 in the third period, while the Bucks were 11 for 16, with Maggette and Dooling repeatedly hitting tough, contested shots.
Young (21 points) was the only Wizards player to score from 2 minutes 47 seconds left in the third period until 4:35 remained in the fourth, as the Bucks extended their lead to 16.
"I tried to pick it up fourth quarter and give a boost of energy," Young said. "We felt like we had a good chance tonight. We came out and was hungry. We just let the game slip away. We've got to get over that. When we're down, we can't think about that too much that we haven't won a game on the road."
Rashard Lewis complained afterward about pain in his right knee limiting him on his jumper and he and Wall combined to shoot just 6 for 22. Wall made a driving layup to complete a 9-0 run that brought the Wizards within 90-83 with 2:32 remaining, but Boykins responded with a three-pointer, Dooling made a layup and Maggette had a three-point play to put the game out of reach. The Bucks, the lowest-scoring team in the league, reached triple digits for just the eighth time this season and the second time since Dec. 13.
"Like Coach [Flip Saunders] said: 'It's all mental. Just bring the same attitude you have at home on the road and you'll finally get one, but if not, the same result is going to keep happening,' " Wall said. "It's embarrassing. You don't want to go 0-41."
They are almost halfway there.