In hindsight, the Wizards’ 116-69 loss in Salt Lake City on Monday could’ve been a lot worse. The Jazz’s leading scorer, Rodney Hood, could’ve played instead of missing his fourth consecutive game with an ankle injury. Bradley Beal, in addition to missing 11 of his 15 shots, could’ve been injured in a freak accident with Utah’s mascot, Jazz Bear. And with the home team protecting a 40-point lead in the fourth quarter, the game could’ve been delayed 35 minutes by a shattered backboard, which is something that actually happened in the only more lopsided loss in franchise history.
On Jan. 10, 1971, the Baltimore Bullets lost at Milwaukee, 151-99. The Bucks led 38-19 after one quarter, 70-39 at halftime and 116-70 with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when Bullets star forward Gus Johnson raced toward the basket on a breakaway. Johnson dunked the ball with such force, perhaps out of frustration, that the basket separated from the backboard, shattering the glass. Johnson left the game with a contusion on his wrist and Milwaukee outscored the Bullets 35-27 after play resumed.
“Our offense was magnificent and our defense was superb,” Bucks Coach Larry Costello said after Milwaukee snapped the Bullets’ six-game winning streak. “That’s the best game we’ve ever played.”
Johnson, who would return to the Bullets’ lineup for their next game four days later, finished with 17 points in the loss. Future Bullet Bob Dandridge scored 34 points to lead the Bucks, while Lew Alcindor had 30.
Shattering backboards was nothing new for Johnson.
“The best matchup in pro basketball is Gus Johnson against a backboard,” The Post’s Mark Asher wrote a couple of weeks after the Bullets’ blowout loss to the Bucks. “But Dave DeBusschere of the New York Knicks ranks a close second as an opponent for the Bullets’ star forward.”
The two power forwards had classic battles in the 1969 and 1970 NBA playoffs, with DeBusschere’s Knicks advancing both times.
“The backboard is the toughest because it doesn’t move,” Johnson said. “DeBusschere moves.”
As a rookie in 1963, Johnson shattered a backboard with a dunk in a loss to the Warriors. According to newspaper accounts of the game, the maintenance crew in Oakland “rigged up a brace behind the huge crack in the backboard” and the game resumed. Warriors Coach Alex Hannum played the rest of the game under protest, claiming Johnson should’ve been assessed a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
Johnson told Asher the number of backboards he destroyed was at least as many as the number of dunk attempts he had blocked in his career.
“I can count [the blocks] on three fingers,” Johnson said. “The only one I really remember was Wilt Chamberlain. He threw me about eight rows into the balcony.”
Baltimore finished the 1970-71 regular season 42-40 and got past the Knicks in seven games to advance to the NBA Finals against the Bucks. Johnson, who was battling a knee injury, appeared in only two of the four games of Milwaukee’s sweep.
Monday’s loss was the Wizards’ worst since they moved to D.C., a distinction that previously belonged to a 124-79 loss to the Nets on Jan. 9, 1993.
“This was reminiscent of those microeconomics classes you may have taken in college — interminable,” The Post’s David Aldridge wrote. “When it finally and mercifully ended for the Washington Bullets, they had been flattened by the New Jersey Nets, 124-79, at Brendan Byrne Arena.”
It could’ve been worse.
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