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Ailing Wizards fall apart vs. Jazz

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 1, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY — In the final stop of their five-game road trip last night, the Washington Wizards appeared doomed from the start.

With Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels out after suffering injuries in Sunday's overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Wizards' road swing ended on a dismal note with a 129-87 loss to the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.

Butler's hamstring injury and Daniels' wrist injury put them on the bench with leading scorer Gilbert Arenas, who missed his 66th straight game while recovering from knee surgery. And although the Jazz played without guard Ronnie Brewer and forward Andrei Kirilenko, those absences seemed to have a rather minimal effect.

The Jazz carried on, handing the Wizards their worst defeat of the season. The 42-point margin of defeat tied for the sixth worst in franchise history. This season's previous worst mark was 39 points, suffered against Toronto on Jan. 30.

Carlos Boozer got the Jazz off to a strong start, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the first quarter, and Deron Williams paced his team with 16 assists to go with 12 points. Seven Jazz players scored in double figures, led by C.J. Miles with 29.

"It's not fun to lose, but yet it's a pleasure watching a Jerry Sloan team execute," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "And I've always said after we play them that hopefully we can learn from what they do and how they play. So that was pointed out tonight. As far as the game, we just didn't have it. We tried to take away the paint. They made shots. They got the juice going. ... Not happy about some things tonight, but at the same time, that's a heck of a ballclub we played tonight."

The Wizards hung with the Jazz (49-26) for the first five minutes of the game, leading 6-5 at one point and trailing only 11-10 with 7:16 left in the quarter. But Utah quickly pulled away with a 14-5 run that included six points — all of them dunks — from Boozer.

Utah continued rolling along, outscoring the Wizards 25-4 in the opening six minutes of the second quarter and boasting a hefty 50-26 advantage midway through the quarter.

"I think they saw they were getting good looks off the pick and roll and kept with it, and we didn't have an answer for that," said Roger Mason Jr., who had 16 points and six assists while starting in place of Daniels. "Offensively we were a little stagnant, and they made shots. That lead just jumped out in the second quarter."

Utah then closed out the half by hitting 3-pointers on five of its six possessions. First came a 3-pointer from Miles, then a layup from Boozer, a 3-pointer from Williams, another from Miles and two more from Williams. The barrage capped a second quarter that saw the Jazz score more points in that period (42) than the Wizards did in the entire first half (41).

The home crowd erupted in approval as the Jazz took a 73-41 lead into halftime. Utah made a total of nine 3-pointers in the first half, which set a franchise record.

The onslaught continued in the second half, and the Wizards never came closer than 29 points. They finished the game with 16 turnovers that led to 24 points, gave up 42 points in the paint and allowed the Jazz to outscore them 21-10 on second-chance points.

Utah finished the game shooting 59.5 percent from the field and 57.7 percent (15-for-26) from 3-point range. The Jazz also racked up season-high 40 assists.

The Wizards, meanwhile, had just three double-digit scorers as Antawn Jamison led the way with 22 points. Rookie Nick Young scored 18.

With the loss, the Wizards (38-36) concluded their trip with a 2-3 record and slipped into a tie with Toronto for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

If the season ended today, the Wizards would hold the tiebreaker because of their 3-1 record against the Raptors this season.

The Wizards flew back to the District overnight. Jordan will give his team the day off today, and then they will play host to the Milwaukee Bucks at 7 p.m. tomorrow.

"It's nice to get back, but getting back means we've got to get some wins," Mason said. "These last two losses hurt, but we've made these next few games that much more important."

Wizards report

Last night at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City

SEEN AND HEARD

The Wizards had to play without All-Star forward Caron Butler and point guard Antonio Daniels, who has started a career-high 55 games this season.

Daniels sprained what was already a problematic left wrist when he got his thumb caught in the jersey of Lakers forward Vladimir Radmanovic on Sunday. He left in the first quarter and did not return. Roger Mason Jr. started in his place against the Jazz. Mason has averaged 17.6 points and 3.1 assists in eight games as a starter.

Butler, who missed 19 games the last two months, strained his left hamstring in overtime of the Lakers game. He received treatment much of yesterday and was a late scratch.

QUOTABLE

"I'm not aware of their 32-4 home record. I'm really not. It's more about how we play and how we compete. That's what I'm looking at."

— Eddie Jordan who discussed the difficulty of playing in Utah with a grin

BY THE NUMBERS

42 Points by which the Wizards fell to the Jazz, tying for the sixth-worst defeat in franchise history.

Mike Jones