The Washington Wizards’ 95-76 loss to Milwaukee last night was one of the team’s most dreadful of the season and included any number of miscues, from shooting 38 percent to 21 turnovers to the starting back court missing 21 of 30 shots.
Certainly injuries were a factor, with Rashard Lewis, Josh Howard and Cartier Martin unavailable before tip-off and Andray Blatche hurt minutes after the start of the game. That left Washington considerably shorthanded and young as underscored by a four-minute stretch when Coach Flip Saunders used an all-rookie lineup.
Still, the ninth loss in 10 games, including six of seven at home, was so intolerable that Saunders indicated afterward he would use these next three days as an in-season “training camp” to determine the rotation on Saturday, when the Wizards play their next game.
“Whoever is going to play and start on Saturday, we’ll determine over the next three days,” he said. “It’s like a wrestle-off. If you can go beat somebody out and the team can play better when you’re on the floor, we’re going to give people opportunities whoever they are.”
The players on the court last night hardly represented those the club had envisioned when the Wizards began the season. The few regulars included rookie point guard John Wall, shooting guard Nick Young, center JaVale McGee and Blatche, but the starting power forward didn’t stick around very long after spraining his right shoulder with 8 minutes 46 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Washington already was without forwards Rashard Lewis (knee tendintis) and Josh Howard (sore hamstring) and swingman Cartier Martin (patella tendinitis), and the loss of Blatche compounded the misery. That left Saunders to turn to a lineup that included rookies and newcomers, most notably Jordan Crawford, who finished with a team- and career-high 22 points.
Crawford came to the Wizards on Feb. 23 along with Maurice Evans and Mike Bibby in a deal that sent guard Kirk Hinrich to playoff-bound Atlanta. Washington subsequently reached a buyout agreement with Bibby and waived the veteran on Feb. 28.
The starting lineup could look drastically different on Saturday when the Wizards play the Los Angeles Clippers at Verizon Center. If Lewis, Howard, Blatche, who is schedule for an MRI this morning, and Martin are out, the potential starting five could be Wall, Young, Evans, Trevor Booker and JaVale McGee.
It also could be the second game when five rookies play at the same time. Wall, Crawford, Booker, Kevin Seraphin and Hamady N’diaye did so last night bridging the end of the first quarter and the start of the second.
“It was probably one of the best moments we had due to the fact that it was all rookies going hard,” N’diaye said. “We didn’t have anything to lose. We just wanted to go out there and play our heart out, and that’s exactly what we did.”