- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Washington Wizards aren’t going to change their losing ways any time soon unless they stop falling behind by deficits that are simply too big to overcome.

In their last three losses — to Houston, New York and Utah — the Wizards have trailed by 26, 23 and 22 points, respectively.

On Monday, the Wizards (13-19) played horribly for three quarters in a 97-89 loss to Utah, then suddenly came alive with 36 points in the fourth quarter. That was nice, but it wasn’t good enough to compensate for what happened in the first 36 minutes.

The Wizards had just 33 points at halftime — their second-lowest total at intermission this season — and fell behind by 22 points late in the third quarter.

They had a season-low 53 points by the end of the third quarter, then played hard enough in the fourth to draw within six points late in the game before the Jazz closed them out.

“It hurts because we’ve been a team that has always had confidence that we can score with people,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said yesterday. “Now when you find yourself 12, 16, 20 down and you can’t get it back like you thought you could, guys try to do it on their own. That’s normal; that’s human nature. You have to be disciplined enough to know that you don’t have to do it by yourself.”

The Wizards, who play host to Atlanta tonight, let a Houston team that was averaging 87.6 points a game come into MCI Center without center Yao Ming and score 123 points. In that game the Wizards fell behind by 26 points and then scored 41 in the fourth quarter.

In the seven games leading up to their rout of the Wizards, the Rockets had been abominable, averaging 82.3 points and connecting on 37.7 percent of their field goals.

Last season, when Washington reached the playoffs for the first time since 1997 and advanced to the second round for the first time in 23 years, the Wizards might have been the best team in the league at coming back for wins.

Beginning with a 12-point victory over Memphis at the start of last season — a game in which they trailed by as many as 19 points — the Wizards recovered from a double-digit deficit 13 times to earn a victory. Twice the Wizards rallied from 10 or more points down to win by double figures.

This season the Wizards are averaging 100.3 points, just a fraction less than the 100.5 they averaged in 2004-05. Caron Butler said the Wizards, fifth in the league in scoring this season, probably have developed a false sense of security. They believe they still can win games in which they trail, something that isn’t proving to be the case.

“Sometimes we do feel that way like we can rely on our offense and then get back,” Butler said. “But we shouldn’t be thinking like that. We need to take it one thing at a time and understand that we’ve got to get stops and just try to put teams away, especially when you’re home.”

In another development, Jordan addressed president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld’s response to questions regarding Jordan’s job security. Grunfeld said Sunday that Jordan’s job was not in jeopardy.

“We always talk, Ernie, [owner Abe] Pollin and myself, and we’re all on the same page,” Jordan said. “The record is very disappointing, but it’s good to hear the endorsement. We’re all just working hard to move forward.”

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