Bobcats 100, Wizards 82
-- It is a team that took down both of last season's NBA Finals participants -- the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons -- yet has a five-game losing streak on its record, and is now a sub-.500 basketball team.
It is a team that sometimes moves the ball beautifully, flies around on defense and looks like a playoff contender. At other times, it is a team that plays like a bunch of strangers thrown together for a pickup game in the park.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet your 2005-06 Washington Wizards, who dropped to 6-7 Saturday night with a 100-82 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Following his team's thrilling, exhausting and highly encouraging 120-114 double-overtime victory in Detroit Friday, Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said the win would be meaningless if Washington didn't follow it up with another in Charlotte. And while the results of Friday's victory won't be erased from the record books, Wizards fans have every reason to scratch their heads and wonder what they should expect to see from night to night.
The Wizards scored a season-low 82 points, shot 39.5 percent, committed a season-high 20 turnovers and were outrebounded 50-43. They couldn't blame tired legs, because both teams were coming off tough road games the previous night. Charlotte suffered a 90-89 loss at Boston on a last-second layup by Paul Pierce yet found the energy to come out with a professional effort.
"This is the NBA, man," said frustrated Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, who scored a season-low 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting with five assists and six turnovers. "I'm not going to take 'we're tired.' We didn't play. We didn't play hard. We didn't play smart. We played like some [garbage]. They outhustled us. They outrebounded us. We didn't lose, we got our [behinds] whipped."
The Bobcats (5-9) had won their two previous games at sparkling new Charlotte Bobcats Arena over the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks by a combined margin of 45 points and are now 4-0 at home against the Eastern Conference.
While Jamison paced the Wizards with 20 points and 12 rebounds, giving him three consecutive double-doubles, and center Brendan Haywood scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, neither former North Carolina Tar Heel could match the jolt of energy provided by Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace, who looked like an all-star en route to scoring 26 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking five shots in 40 minutes.
The Wizards trailed by 11 in the first quarter and Wallace, who scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first half, pushed the lead to 13 when he caught an alley-oop pass from Raymond Felton and scored with 9 minutes 47 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Later in the half, Wallace was credited with a block on a spectacular play in which he soared in and caught an Etan Thomas jump hook before it dropped toward the rim.
Guard Kareem Rush added 23 points for the Bobcats but it was Wallace who set the tone on the game's first possession, when he jumped in front of an Arenas pass and raced the length of the floor for a nasty one-handed slam dunk.
"They were coming off a double-overtime game and we wanted to get in and push them and do as much as we could to get them out of the game they like to play," Wallace said.
Washington got within two with 4:03 remaining in the third quarter when Chucky Atkins, the fourth-quarter hero of Friday night's victory, made a three-pointer. However, on the next three Washington possessions, Atkins turned over the ball, Haywood missed a short hook shot and Antonio Daniels lost the ball for another turnover. By the end of the quarter, the Charlotte lead stood at 69-61.
Whether out of frustration, curiosity or a mixture of both, Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan inserted rookie forward Andray Blatche into the game at the 3:36 mark of the fourth quarter with the Wizards trailing 91-78. After the game, Jordan appeared to express his frustration over the play of some of his players, perhaps Daniels and Thomas, who combined to score three points in 33 minutes Saturday night after seeing limited action at Detroit on Friday night.
"Right now, I'm going to be very diplomatic and say that [Friday] night's victory meant a lot to us," Jordan said. "We expended a lot of energy and we hoped that the people who didn't play as many minutes [Friday] night would give us some energy tonight and that didn't happen."