By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 12:53 AM
In a season rife with unremarkable games and on occasion abject failure, the Washington Wizards found a way to mine the depths of futility even further on Tuesday in a 95-76 loss to Milwaukee at Verizon Center.
The empirical evidence to confirm just how unwatchable Washington's ninth loss in 10 games actually was included the Wizards' tying a season low for points and shooting 38 percent from the field, and the starting back court missing 21 of 30 shots. The Wizards (16-47) also shot just 53 percent from the foul line, more than 20 points below their norm, and missed 10 of 12 from three-point range.
Then consider that the Bucks (24-38) came in 15 games below .500 and among the least competent teams in the league offensively, and the failures from a sixth loss at home in seven tries become that much more excruciating. So disengaged was the announced 16,190 that the most excitement in the building erupted when Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" began piping through the speaker system, not for any activity on the court.
"I think nobody, including myself, played good at all," said rookie point guard John Wall, who missed 13 of 17 shots to finish with 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists with five turnovers. "We just let them beat us on the fast breaks. They basically got whatever shot they wanted whenever they wanted."
Injuries certainly contributed to the outcome. Already without forwards Rashard Lewis (knee tendinitis) and Josh Howard (sore hamstring) and swingman Cartier Martin (patella tendinitis), the Wizards lost starting power forward Andray Blatche with 8 minutes 46 seconds to play in the first quarter with a sprained right shoulder.
After Milwaukee's Luc Mbah a Moute and Brandon Jennings closed in and trapped him, Blatche tried to gather a loose ball when he landed hard on his right side and remained down until Washington called timeout. Blatche walked to the locker room shortly thereafter, and Coach Flip Saunders said the Wizards' second leading scorer would have an MRI exam Wednesday morning.
The injury expedited Saunders turning to an all-rookie lineup. With Wall, Jordan Crawford, Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin in the game, Hamady N'diaye joined that group with 36.6 seconds left in the first quarter, marking the first time a team had used five rookies at the same time since Houston did so on March 1 of last year.
In just his seventh game with the Wizards since arriving in a trade from Atlanta, Crawford was the best of the lot, scoring a team- and career-high 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting along with four rebounds and three assists in 26 and a half minutes. Booker finished with eight points and eight rebounds in nearly 32 minutes.
"I didn't even know until actually Coach said it at halftime," Crawford said of the rookie novelty, which lasted close to four minutes. "I was just playing with a lot of hustle. With young players like us, sometimes we have slipups. We couldn't maintain keeping up with them after they got out to a good lead."
With the game still close, the Bucks used a 13-4 run for a 45-34 lead with 1:07 to go before the break. John Salmons followed with a three-pointer, and Jennings closed the half with a three-pointer off the glass for a 15-point buffer that all but ended the competitive portion of the proceedings. Milwaukee outscored Washington 29-15 in the second quarter.
Jennings finished with a game-high 23 points with five rebounds and four assists, and Salmons chipped in 22 points, five rebounds and five assists. Forward Carlos Delfino had 15 points, and center Andrew Bogut added 14 to round out four Bucks starters to reach double figures.
The only Wizards players other than Crawford and Wall to get there were forward Maurice Evans (11 points) and guard Nick Young (10), both starters. Bothered by a sore knee, Young missed 8 of 13 shots and was 0 for 4 from three-point range. Young had been averaging 26.5 points in his past two games, although he missed Washington's 103-96 victory over Minnesota on Saturday because of flu-like symptoms.
"I was most disappointed that we really didn't accept the challenge in the back court overall," Saunders said. "At some point you've just got to get after it, and that's part of growing process of being a young player. The next step is being able to dig your feet in and go after somebody. You can sense if you're not doing that, the other team gets too comfortable."