Denver Puts a Hurting On Ailing Washington

Nuggets 124, Wizards 103

Wizards rookie JaVale McGee tries to stop Denver's Carmelo Anthony, who had 23 points and eight rebounds.
Wizards rookie JaVale McGee tries to stop Denver's Carmelo Anthony, who had 23 points and eight rebounds. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 7, 2009; Page E03

For one stretch of last night's game against the Denver Nuggets, the Wizards had a unit on the floor comprising second-year players Javaris Crittenton, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire and Oleksiy Pecherov as well as rookie center JaVale McGee.

It offered a harsh reminder of just how thin the Wizards are.

With Caron Butler missing his second straight game with the flu and several other key players out with injuries, the Wizards trailed by as many as 36 points and were rudely dispatched, 124-103, in front of a sellout crowd of 20,173 at Verizon Center.

Antawn Jamison did what he could for the Wizards at the offensive end by scoring 21 of his 26 points in the first half, but that didn't matter as the Nuggets built a 20-point halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way.

"It's embarrassing," Jamison said. "It's embarrassing to play at home and have your fans booing you. . . . Honestly, I thought some of my guys were scared to play out there tonight."

Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets (34-16) with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists but hardly had to break a sweat doing so as six teammates joined him by scoring in double figures. Denver shot better than 60 percent for most of the game.

The Nuggets had 12 dunks and several easy layups.

The Wizards (10-40) got off to a solid start and used a 7-0 run midway through the first quarter to take a 21-14 lead on a three-pointer by Jamison, but momentum quickly turned and the roll began once Tapscott went to his thin and youthful bench.

Anthony made a 16-foot jumper, Kenyon Martin was not boxed out and threw down a dunk on a rebound, Anthony drew the defense and found a cutting Chris Andersen for another dunk and Chauncey Billups converted a Washington turnover into points by finding Anthony for a fast-break slam.

That flurry sparked a 21-2 run that the Wizards couldn't counter. The difference in talent, experience level and chemistry between the two teams was especially striking during the second quarter as the Nuggets ripped off 38 points by shooting 64 percent.

"That is what a playoff team looks like," Tapscott said of the veteran Nuggets.

The Wizards, meantime, continue to play with little cohesion. Stagnant possessions too often end with the ball in the hands of a player who is forced to toss up a contested shot, or with a turnover the opponent cashes in on at the other end.

The problem couldn't simply be attributed to inexperience because the Wizards were dominated just as equally when veterans such as Jamison, Darius Songaila, Mike James and Juan Dixon were on the floor together.

On one sequence in the third quarter, for example, Dixon missed a long jumper, Billups grabbed the long rebound and zipped a long pass to a streaking Dahntay Jones, who beat all five Wizards upcourt before throwing down yet another easy dunk.

On another later in the quarter, Jamison posted up and went into a move but lost his balance and the ball as the Nuggets pushed the ball up the floor and easily scored when Anthony rebounded a miss by Carter and laid it back in.

"We're not playing with a very high basketball IQ right now," Jamison said.

The end result was one of the worst beatings of the season and Washington's eighth loss in nine games. Perhaps Nuggets coach George Karl, who is in his 21st season guiding an NBA team put it best:

"They'll have some real positives to come out of this. It's just hard right now when it's so dark to find the positives because you can't really see them."

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