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Listless Wizards routed by Magic

- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. | Through their first four losses of the season, despite poor execution and an array of shortcomings, the Washington Wizards managed to put up a fight and make the outcome look respectable.

But Saturday night against the host Magic, there were no All-Star caliber performances or bench-led rallies. After getting thrashed 106-81, the Wizards were left with their second 0-5 start in as many years.

The Wizards allowed their opponents to shoot better than 50 percent from the field for the second straight night. And on offense, the Wizards looked sluggish and disoriented. Washington committed 16 turnovers, which led to 23 Orlando points.

Dwight Howard dominated for Orlando (4-2) with 31 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks. The two-time All-Star center shot 11-for-13 from the field.

"Orlando's a very good team," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "For us, they're just a better team. We're on a back-to-back, and sort of lost a little bit of energy. But again, we're playing with a lot of young guys, I wanted to get them some experience, and again, Orlando was the better team."

Reserve guard Nick Young led the Wizards with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting but got little help. DeShawn Stevenson, after struggling through four games, scored 14 points to lead the starters, but Caron Butler, who entered the game averaging 22.8 points, finished with a season-low 10.

Early on, it was a case of deja vu for the Wizards. A night after giving up 13 3-pointers in a 114-108 loss to the visiting New York Knicks, Washington again found itself victimized by a perimeter attack. Orlando made seven 3-pointers in the first half.

Juan Dixon - who had a career night on Friday with 11 assists and eight rebounds - started at point guard in place of Antonio Daniels, who was out with soreness and swelling in his right knee. But the Wizards still failed to orchestrate a productive first quarter.

The Wizards, who never led, made just 38 percent of their shots in the first quarter and 39.5 percent in the first half. Orlando, meanwhile, shot 59 percent in the first half. After the Magic built a 27-21 lead in the first, they opened the second with a 13-3 run and by halftime led 58-39.

"It's extra disappointing when you're in the situation that we're in, you're not winning games and you know how well [Orlando] has been playing at home and to still not come out with the energy we need," said Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, who had seven points and three rebounds - both season lows. "It's frustrating. We're 0-5. We need people to play basketball. I'm not making excuses. But it's disappointing to start the season off on a slow foot again."

Things worsened in the second half. Orlando didn't let up following the break, and Washington didn't heat up. From the four-minute mark of the second quarter all until 4:49 remained in the third, the Magic outscored the Wizards 30-9 to grab their largest advantage of the game, 76-47.

"We've got to dig ourselves out of this hole, and it's going to take a collective effort," Butler said. "Obviously, we need the young guys to continue to bring the energy that they bring, play a little better, and it's on ourselves as vets as well."

Note- Butler left the game with 1:28 left in the second quarter after butting heads with Orlando's Mickael Pietrus. The collision sent Butler to the floor and opened up a deep gash above his left eye. He headed to the locker room with blood running from the cut. After getting the wound glued and taped, he returned in the third quarter.