In many ways, Gilbert Arenas is the face of the Washington Wizards. At the start of the third quarter Saturday night, that face wore a look of frustration. The Wizards were on their way to a third consecutive loss -- 89-83 to the New Jersey Nets -- and Arenas was on the bench after Coach Eddie Jordan kept him there for the start of the third quarter.
Yesterday, on what was scheduled to be a day off, Jordan had his team on the MCI Center practice court as he attempted to figure out how to get his squad out of its first funk of the 2005-06 season. The Wizards (5-4) will host the Denver Nuggets (5-5) tomorrow night at MCI Center.
"We need a win to get our confidence up," Arenas said. "The same things we were doing when we were winning, we have to do again."
While Arenas experienced his share of struggles during the road trip -- he turned over the ball 18 times, had 13 assists and shot 38.5 percent from the field -- Washington's problems went beyond their top playmaker:
* The Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Nets were able to get wide-open shots against Washington's defense, particularly in the fourth quarter. Cleveland and Minnesota shot 63.2 percent in the fourth quarters of their wins.
* The Wizards are shooting just 35.2 percent from three-point range and 69.8 percent from the free throw line for the season and gave away precious points Saturday night by missing 14 of 31 free throws against New Jersey.
* Washington was outrebounded in each of the losses and is being outrebounded by an average of 6.2 rebounds per game for the season.
Jordan would like to see his team shore up some of those areas before his team hits the road again for another three-game swing against the Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats later this week.
Forward Antawn Jamison stressed that no one on the team is ready to push the panic button.
"The teams that have success in this league find a way to get out of losing streaks and stay even-keeled through the course of a season," Jamison said. "We felt good about ourselves before heading out on the trip and we got back to reality that there still is a lot of work ahead of us. That's how we have to approach it."
Time Is Limited
Forward Jared Jeffries -- who joined Arenas on the bench at the start of the third quarter Saturday night -- and reserve guard Chucky Atkins played fewer minutes on the road trip.
After scoring six points, grabbing eight rebounds and playing good defense in 23 minutes 33 seconds in the loss to Cleveland, Jeffries attempted just two shots and scored two points just over 27 total minutes against Minnesota and New Jersey.
Atkins, who has struggled to find his shooting touch since the preseason ended (he's 6 of 32 from the field overall and 2 of 16 from three-point range) played 13:21 against Cleveland and a total of just more than 15 minutes against Minnesota and New Jersey.
"I'm going to go with the guys that are producing on the floor," Jordan said.
Jordan has gone with a starting lineup of Arenas, Jeffries, Antonio Daniels, Jamison and Brendan Haywood in eight of the nine games so far, but hinted yesterday that changes could be coming.
"We've been strong in the first quarter and it's been the second quarter that's hurt us so maybe I need to do something to strengthen the second unit," Jordan said. "Will that affect the starting lineup? That's a question, not a statement. We'll see how it goes."