With the majority of their starters nursing wounds or being disciplined, the Washington Wizards who took the court looked uninspired and disjointed in a 95-83 preseason loss to the equally short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers tonight before an estimated crowd of 6,500 at Gund Arena.
Washington, which fell to 1-1 in the exhibition season, shot 36.5 percent, committed 23 turnovers and was outscored 23-2 on fast break points.
The Wizards fell apart after a strong first quarter and salvaged a somewhat respectful margin of defeat by using some of their top reserves and starting forward Juwan Howard late in the game against many players who will not make the Cavaliers' roster.
"We got most of our players at home trying to get healthy, so overall, I'm not disappointed in a sense that we lost the game," Wizards Coach Gar Heard said. "I'm disappointed in the way we lost the game. We've got to give a lot better effort."
Both teams started a shell of their regular rosters. Howard and Michael Smith were the only regular starters for Washington while point guard Brevin Knight and forward Cedric Henderson were Cleveland's only regular first teamers.
Washington did not bring point guard Rod Strickland because he missed practice without being excused Wednesday. Starting shooting guard Mitch Richmond (strained right hamstring) and starting center Ike Austin (strained hip flexor) also did not make the trip.
Cleveland forward Shawn Kemp was sent home roughly an hour before tip-off with flu. Starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas (inflammation of the left foot) and forward Lamond Murray (sprained left knee) did not dress.
The lack of star power may have dimmed the game's glitz, but at least in Washington's case, Heard planned on using his reserves extensively regardless. He wanted to use tonight's game and Saturday's game in Baltimore against Cleveland (3-1) to decide which players he wants on his final roster. Most of the players fighting for jobs disappointed Heard tonight.
Guards James Collins, Reggie Jordan and Laron Profit, who are battling for the fifth guard spot, all struggled. Jordan missed two shots and committed two turnovers in 11 minutes. Collins missed three shots but did have two assists. Profit, who played 16 minutes, had four points and four rebounds but committed two turnovers.
"Being young is not an excuse for not giving effort," Heard said. "You're trying to make the ball club so you want to play hard and show the coach you want to make this team. All those guys missed a guy like Rod Strickland. Rod can get in and penetrate. Tonight we didn't have the penetration we would have had with Rod on the court. We might have penetrated twice tonight and got two baskets."
Strickland, who was fined for his unexcused absence, is scheduled to meet with Heard before practice Friday and should start Saturday.
Chris Whitney, who started in place of Strickland, had 14 points and a game-high seven assists. Howard had 10 points and four rebounds. Smith had six points and a team-best eight rebounds. Rookie shooting guard Richard Hamilton added 10 points.
Cleveland was led by Henderson (14 points), Andrew DeClercq (12 points, nine rebounds) and Jamel Thomas (13 points).
Wizards free agent power forward Gerard King continued to establish himself by scoring a game-high 15 points and blocking a game-high three shots.