In the early part of the Washington Wizards' season, a few patterns have emerged. Washington tends to fall behind early, its reserves often are forced to try to bail out its ineffective starters and road games tend to turn into blowouts.
The Indiana Pacers mopped up the Wizards this time, blasting Washington, 105-83, tonight before a sold-out crowd of 18,345 at the new Conseco Fieldhouse. The loss was the Wizards' sixth in a row and eighth straight to the Pacers.
The Wizards' 1-6 start is their worst since the 1966-67 season, when the club also began 1-6.
"It's just embarrassing," Coach Gar Heard said.
Heard is so frustrated that he probably will change his starting lineup for Tuesday's home game against Philadelphia.
"The way we're playing, nobody is safe," Heard said.
Though Heard would not say who could get benched, there are indications that backup center-forward Gerard King could replace starting center Ike Austin, who was acquired in a trade with Orlando to solidify Washington's low-post play.
Austin scored just three points tonight, all on free throws. Heard said the team has tried to establish a low-post game, but nothing has materialized until his reserves take the floor.
King registered a career-high 20 points and 16 rebounds, 10 on the offensive end.
"That's not my call," King said about possibly starting. "My job is to go out there and play hard and get a win. It's tough right now. Everybody wants to win, but my desire to win is just high. It's hard to deal with right now. We have to stay positive."
There are possibilities that other changes may be made. Other than point guard Rod Strickland's 10 points, the remaining four starters combined for 20 points. Forward Juwan Howard had nine, guard Mitch Richmond had six and forward Michael Smith, who played just 15 minutes, had two.
For the second straight game, the backups outscored the starters, this time 53-30. King and backup forward Tracy Murray (12 points) combined to outscore all the starters, who will make a combined $42 million this season. King and Murray played a combined 47 minutes. The starting five played a total of 109.
Washington outrebounded the Pacers 55-45 and had 19 offensive rebounds. The starters registered just one offensive rebound. In the first and third quarters, when the starters logged the majority of minutes, the Wizards made 12 of 48 shots.
"We need our best five on the floor at the beginning of the game, and I'm not sure that we have that right now," Heard said. "Maybe we should start the bench. We need some answers. We have to start thinking about team and not individual stats."
The Wizards have lost their three road games by an average of 19 points.
"I thought we put a lot of pressure on them early and took control of the game," said Pacers forward Dale Davis, who had 13 points and was one of seven Pacers to score in double figures. "We knew Miami took advantage of Washington with a fast start so we tried to."
As has been the case every time the Wizards have played away from home this season--Boston and New Jersey also beat the Wizards handily--the outcome was all but decided in the third quarter.
Ahead 54-41 at halftime, Indiana jumped to a 30-point lead twice in the third period before it allowed Washington to pull to 82-56 entering the fourth quarter. The Pacers opened the quarter outscoring the Wizards 26-9.
Washington committed six turnovers during Indiana's free-for-all and then watched as the Pacers scored from inside and out. Dale Davis opened the quarter with an alley-oop dunk then gave way to Rik Smits, who knocked down a lightly contested hook. The Wizards made just 5 of 21 shots (23 percent) in the quarter.
"When things go bad, they go bad," Richmond said. "It's not going to happen until we get it done on the floor. It's just difficult--a tough time."
Indiana, which never trailed after overcoming the Wizards' 5-4 lead to start the game, led by as many as 14 in the half, in large part to its lopsided edge from the foul line. The Pacers made 12 of 17 foul shots, compared to Washington converting just 5 of 6 attempts from the free throw line.