The Washington Wizards left Continental Airlines Arena tonight with an Rx on their jerseys. They were the ideal remedies for the New Jersey Nets, who entered the game winless and already had local critics hounding them.
The Wizards failed to record a fourth-quarter field goal until guard Richard Hamilton made a short jumper with 4 minutes 7 seconds left in the game. But Washington's fortunes in the 112-87 blowout loss before 14,686 were determined well before Hamilton's basket.
The Wizards allowed the Nets, who entered the game shooting 39 percent, to make 43 percent of their shots. Washington allowed New Jersey to score 48 points in the lane and got outrebounded 50-46. The Wizards had a meager 13 assists.
After backup center Jahidi White's breakaway dunk brought Washington to 61-59 in the third quarter, the Wizards made just 8 of 40 shots. The Wizards' starters scored just 15 second-half points. Forward Juwan Howard scored all 10 of his points in the first half. Hamilton led Washington with 14 points.
"I can't be yelling and screaming the whole game begging guys to play," Washington Coach Gar Heard said. "That's not my job to beg them to play. If they don't want to play, they have to sit down. That goes for guys one through twelve.
"We're not going to get into this mode. We got our butts kicked and we had no energy. There was no expression on their faces about trying to dig in and do something. We're not going to have any quitting mentality on this team.
"I don't think they quit but the way I look at the game, when I get my butt beat I'm going to try and do something to turn this game around. I'm not going to let guys keep taking advantage of me. Tonight we didn't do that. They kept dunking on us and stealing the ball and shooting threes and we stand there like nothing is happening."
Heard hoped to open the season strong, and that his team would play not to lose. Though the season is only four games old, Heard's task now may be to keep the Wizards from transgressing into the mindset of mediocrity--the downfall of many past Washington teams.
"If they have that mindset they'll have that mindset sitting on the bench," Heard said. "I can get beat by 30 with anybody on the court but if I'm going to get beat I'm going to get beat fighting."
Center Ike Austin, who was mired in foul trouble and scored just eight points in 18 minutes, was equally upset.
"We're going to be the laughingstock of the season," Austin said. "We've got too much talent on this team to be losing a game like that. We can say it's the fourth game of the season, blah, blah, blah, but that's some bull. We have to play hard enough where we can win some games on talent alone."
Wizards guard Mitch Richmond did not play the final 8:33 because of a sore right knee.
This was the second straight time that Washington has been blown out, on the road, in the second game of a back-to-back set. It also was the Wizards' third straight loss. Things don't get any easier, either. Washington (1-3) faces a rugged stretch against Seattle, Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia and Toronto.
Heard said he is going to return to a training camp mentality in practice. If players don't practice, they won't play. Monday's drills will be exclusively on defense.
The Nets (1-3) were so desperate entering the game that they changed their offensive alignment to try and incorporate more players. Point guard Stephon Marbury had taken three times as many shots as any other Nets player except forward Keith Van Horn. So Coach Don Casey called for an off guard to bring the ball upcourt sometimes to increase player movement.
It was unclear if it was the new scheme or Washington's porous defense and lackluster rebounding that led to New Jersey's offensive revitalization. But, either way, the Nets got well.
Van Horn registered a career-high 18 rebounds. Center Jamie Feick had 16 rebounds. Backup forward Johnny Newman scored a game-high 25 points. Marbury had a game-high eight rebounds making this the first time Marbury has not been the Nets' high scorer.