For nine consecutive games, the Washington Wizards managed to hold their opponents under 100 points. On Monday night at Verizon Center, the streak came to and end, as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated them 112-98 in a game that was over by halftime.
The Wizards played with an injury-riddled lineup that was small and young. Veteran center Nene and forward Trevor Booker were sidelined with plantar fasciitis in their left foot. Forwards Rashard Lewis (bone bruise in his left knee) and Andray Blatche (conditioning) were also out, leaving the Wizards with a patchwork group that fell quickly against the Bucks, never putting forth much of a competitive effort.
"You don't have an excuse by saying everybody is injured," said John Wall, who had 14 points on 4 of 13 from the floor with nine assists. "You've got to play with what you've got. Guys have to step up, and we just didn't play well tonight. They outplayed us."
The Bucks (25-28) are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference, hoping to catch the injury-plagued and fading New York Knicks for the eighth and final playoff spot. Led by Brandon Jennings (19 points), they were easily able to hold off a brief fourth-quarter charge by the Wizards (12-41).
The one trend that did continue for the Wizards, though, was Jordan Crawford's scoring streak. Crawford has now scored at least 17 points in his last ten games. Crawford finished with 23 points on 8 of 17 from the floor, with five rebounds and six assists.
"It hurt because we had some big pieces out, but we always think that we can play a game. The Bucks played a good game," Crawford said.
Since the departure of Nick Young, Crawford has been the Wizards' most consistent and prolific scorer. Just days before Young was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, Crawford had wrestled the starting job away from him.
With 13 games remaining in the season, the guard has decided on one goal he believes is attainable.
"I want to get to 20 wins," Crawford said. "That's what I want to do. I mean, you know, [we're] eight away, 13 games, you go 8-5 to end up. That's pretty good."
If there is anything positive to be gained from all the recent injuries, it's the opportunity for other players to step up, as Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely did against the Bucks. Vesely scored a career-high 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting, and Seraphin scored 15 points on 7 of 14 from the floor.
"It was tough without Nene," said Seraphin, who gets more playing time when Nene is out, but seems to prefer playing alongside his new teammate.
Even after a couple of competitive performances, the Wizards were playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and it showed on Monday.
"I just thought our legs looked heavy tonight," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "In this stretch we're going through, not to make excuses, but that's going to happen so we've got to get ourselves back energized."
It will be a tough task. After taking Tuesday off, the Wizards will play three games in three nights.
"It's hard," Wittman said. "You got guys playing out of position, trying to teach them on the go what the play call is. It's almost like we've made another trade. It's a little disruptive but thats the nature of this business.
"Another good thing for young guys to understand, the more versatile you can be as a player, the more coaches like you. Show me that you can do that is a plus moving on down the road."
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