EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Feb. 27 -- With the Big Three reduced to the Gilbert Arenas Solo Act for the second game in a row, Washington Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan was asked how his team was going to make up for the absence of Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler on Tuesday night against the New Jersey Nets.
"We're going to try to play defense," Jordan said, looking around before placing his index finger at his lips. "Shhh."
Jordan didn't want to say it too loud, perhaps unwilling to believe what he just said. The Wizards' defense was almost as nonexistent as its star forwards Tuesday night, as the Nets set a franchise record with 16 three-pointers and won 113-101.
The Wizards dropped to 4-7 without Jamison, who practiced on his injured left knee for the first time this week but watched the game seated next to the Wizards' coaching staff. Butler wasn't even in the arena, having been sent home to Washington after the team's morning shoot-around to receive more treatment on his ailing back.
Arenas scored a team-high 26 points but missed 18 of his 25 attempts from the floor. He continued to struggle from beyond the three-point arc (3 of 12). But Arenas said he hopes to have more help when the team returns home for Wednesday night's game against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat at Verizon Center. "We just got to keep fighting, keep going. We get Antawn back [today], so we should have some more firepower," Arenas said before stopping himself. "Did I say that? Shoot! Hopefully, Antawn will come back tomorrow."
In the locker room after the game, Jamison appeared disappointed that he wasn't allowed to play. "We'll see," Jamison said when asked if he'll return against Miami. "It's not up me. It's up to the doctors. You know I want to be out there."
The Wizards lost for the 11th time in their past 12 games at Continental Airlines Arena. The newly recharged Nets have won three in a row since team president Rod Thorn decided to hold on to all-stars Jason Kidd and Vince Carter at the trade deadline.
Carter staged a personal dunk contest in the first half, catching back-to-back alley-oop passes from Kidd for reverse dunks and driving around Etan Thomas for an emphatic one-handed dunk. He scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the first half. Kidd staged his own three-pointing shooting competition in the second half, as he took advantage of the Wizards' defensive breakdowns to sink six three-pointers. He finished with 26 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds.
With the win, the Nets leapfrogged Miami for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards will look to return home and forget this three-game trip to Chicago, Minnesota and New Jersey, which resulted in three losses and Butler being out for an undetermined amount of time with back spasms.
"We just have to keep plugging. We have a good team coming in. Being home doesn't cure all the ills," Jordan said. "We have to play better. We have to rebound better and we have to handle things defensively better."
The Wizards tried multiple defenses Tuesday night, but the Nets consistently found the holes. The Nets' reserves scored 51 points, with Bostjan Nachbar scoring 23 points. Clifford Robinson and Eddie House both had 12 points. After Arenas gave the Wizards an 86-85 lead with 9 minutes 17 seconds remaining in the game, House nailed an open three-pointer and the Nets never trailed again.
Jarvis Hayes started in place of Butler for the second consecutive game, and he rebounded from his 1-for-10 shooting performance in Minnesota to score a season-high 21 points with nine rebounds. "I hate having games like this when you lose, because 20 percent of you is happy that you played well, but 80 percent, well actually 100 percent is upset that we lost," Hayes said. "I'm just trying to do my part while Caron and 'Tawn are out. We just couldn't do it as a team now."
Roger Mason hit 4 of 5 three-pointers and scored a career-high 18 points off the bench for the Wizards. After struggling for most of the month of February, reserve guard Antonio Daniels didn't play at all, receiving his first DNP-coach's decision since joining the Wizards. "He hasn't played very, very well," Jordan said before the game. "I still like Antonio as a starter if Gilbert can't start. I still like Antonio finishing games. But right now, I'm going in a different direction."