Wizards get it all backward in New York
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
NEW YORK - Coach Flip Saunders called timeout, gathered his team into a huddle on the court and was extremely animated as he shouted to his players to start playing with some passion, with some purpose. The Washington Wizards were only down by six points in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks and Saunders didn't want his players to fall into the same habits of sulking and sinking to yet another road loss.
"He said exactly what he needed to say to us," John Wall said. "Do you want to play or do you want to quit?"
The motivational words lasted for about one possession, as Andray Blatche hit a 16-foot jumper to cut the deficit, but the Wizards would go four more minutes before they made another field goal, and were well on their way to a 115-106 defeat at Madison Square Garden. The loss put the Wizards more than halfway toward losing all of their road games, as they dropped to 0-21 away from Verizon Center.
"You don't want to be embarrassed," Rashard Lewis said after scoring 20 points. "We have to win a road game, somehow, one way or another. No way in this world we can be O-for Winfrey on the road."
The Wizards (13-30) have done poorly on the road in a lot of areas this season, but until Monday night, they had always managed to at least have their shorts on correctly. But rookie Kevin Seraphin decided to add to a season filled with follies, when he entered the game with his shorts on backward.
Seraphin ran up and down the court a few times, but didn't recognize the problem until someone informed him during a timeout. Seraphin's teammates gathered and formed a shield while he dropped them and switched them around on the bench.
Although the wardrobe blunder provided some laughter on the sideline, it became yet another footnote to Wizards' road miseries, which have yet to cease. Coming off a seemingly inspiring win over the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics, the Wizards once again competed for slightly more than three quarters - the game was tied at 95 with 9 minutes 52 seconds remaining - before completely folding when it matters most.
Reserve Hilton Armstrong didn't see any action until the game was well decided, but tried to encourage his teammates to no avail from the sidelines. "It boggles my mind," Armstrong said. "I kind of knew what was going to happen, because it happens every road game. It's frustrating to see that, especially when you know it's going to happen. I don't know what it is. I'm tired of blaming it on a young team. We're going to be a young team the whole season. You still have to learn from your mistakes.
"By this time, we should see what we're doing. We should see what's wrong, what's not working and make a change. You keep doing the same thing and it's not working, that's insanity. It's ridiculous."
Nick Young decided that he needed to change something, so the night before, Blatche persuaded him to get his hair braided, thinking that a new look might yield a new result. Young scored a team-high 22 points, Wall added 18 points with nine assists, and JaVale McGee had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
But Blatche had one of his worst games of the season, finishing with just six points on 2 of 10 shooting with five rebounds. Blatche missed his first four shots, scored just one point, and had three turnovers through the first three quarters. He air-balled two layup attempts and didn't score until he made a short jumper to tie the score at 95 early in the fourth period. He added another jumper to bring the Wizards within 101-97, but the Wizards would get no closer.
"He was terrible. He was bad," Saunders said of Blatche. "Looked like he didn't have energy or something. When you're a quote-end-quote go-to guy, you can't have those kind of games. You've got to find a way to produce. If he doesn't produce it will put a lot of pressure on us."
After the game, Blatche shrugged, explaining that he didn't get many touches early on. "I don't know what to tell you. I did what I do," he said. "It wasn't like I was out there doing crazy stuff. I played my game, man."
Amare Stoudemire led all scorers with 30 points and also had nine rebounds as the Knicks snapped a six-game losing streak. Wilson Chandler added 25 points, Raymond Felton had 17 points and 15 assists and Danilo Gallinari had 17 - including two three-pointers during a decisive 9-2 run late - for the Knicks (23-21).
"It's no more excuses for us. It's either us getting the job done, or us being talked about as the team that can't win on the road," Wall said. "It's confidence. We right there throughout the whole game. But the last five minutes, it's like we don't play together no more. Until we lock down, play defense on the road, it's going to be the same results. And we can't feel sorry for ourselves."
When asked about Saunders's pep talk, Young said: "He was trying to get us fired up. It shouldn't have to take the coach to get us fired up every time. We have to take responsibility ourselves."