- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

CHICAGO — The famous Chicago L doesn’t come very close to United Center, but last night the Chicago Bulls’ arena would have been the perfect venue for a turnstile — to be run through or jumped over — because the Wizards were giving free rides to the basket late into the evening.

Out of synch on both ends of the court, the Wizards fell behind by as many as 30 points in the third quarter and sleepwalked for the entire 48 minutes of an embarrassing 112-94 loss.

With the defeat, the Wizards (6-10) set a franchise record, albeit a shameful one. They are now 0-8 on the road, marking their most futile road start to the beginning of a season in the franchise’ 43-year history.

The 1986-87 Washington Bullets lost seven road games before ending their skid 20 years ago yesterday.

“We’re just trying to get a win, that’s the main thing,” said Caron Butler, who paced the Wizards with his seventh double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds) of the season. “We’ve just got to stay poised. It wasn’t effort. Guys were chipping away at the lead. You just have to tip your hat to Chicago for playing well.”

The Wizards have scored more than 100 points on the road just once this season — in a 106-103 loss at Orlando.

This was not the type of birthday present Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who turns 83 today, would have wanted.

Pollin has talked whimsically at times about the Wizards battling for the Eastern Conference title. But after last night’s loss, the Wizards have won just three times in their last 11 games.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take to work itself out,” Wizards center Brendan Haywood said of the team’s struggles. “Hopefully we can get out of it soon because I’ve been on some bad teams and if you don’t get a hold of it soon it can get ugly.”

But things don’t get easier immediately for the Wizards. Their next game is at home Monday against Dallas, which owns a 12-game winning streak.

Things dropped off after Butler’s effort. Backup guard Antonio Daniels was second in scoring with 12 points. Point guard Gilbert Arenas, meanwhile, was benched most of the third quarter and all of the fourth. He finished with 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting. Forward Antawn Jamison added nine points on 3-for-10 shooting.

Conversely, the Bulls, who after dropping six straight have reeled off four consecutive wins, posted a box score to be proud of. Ben Gordon came off the bench to score a team-high 28 points for the Bulls (7-9) with 28 points. Andres Nocioni scored 20 of his 24 points in the first half, Luol Deng added 18 points and Ben Wallace and Kirk Hinrich with 10 points apiece. The Bulls shot 41-for-81 from the field.

For a team looking to avoid the ignominy of establishing the worst road start in franchise history, things couldn’t have gone any worse for the Wizards than they did in the second quarter.

Trailing 29-25 after one quarter, the Wizards allowed the Bulls to make eight of their first 10 shots at the start of the second.

The Bulls quickly extended their lead to 36-20. And later in the quarter back-to-back 3-pointers from Ben Gordon sandwiched around a Brendan Haywood lay-up produced a 56-35 Bulls’ advantage with 3:25 left in the half.

At one point in the half, the Bulls led by 24 points.

While the usual culprit of poor defense allowed such a massive lead, the Wizards’ lack of offense proved even more damaging.

“I thought our effort was there, especially at the start,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “It was close to an even score at the end of the first quarter. I thought we did some good things and competed hard. Then they jumped on us. After that we just didn’t play well.”

The Wizards settled into the habit of taking quick jumpers and it killed them and their shooting percentage, which in the second quarter was an innocuous 25 percent (5-for-20).

Underscoring the futility of the night was the combined 0-for-11 Arenas, Butler and Jamison shot from the field in second quarter.

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