ORLANDO, Fla. — Perhaps the best moment for the Washington Wizards against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night was just before the opening tip, when Rashard Lewis received a huge ovation from the fans in the city where he spent three and half seasons.
And perhaps the signature moment was in the opening seconds, when John Wall went up for a shot, and Dwight Howard slammed it against the backboard. The Wizards would miss their first 12 shots and never had a chance of making it a game, losing 103-85 at Amway Center.
“It was a bad start,” said Wizards coach Flip Saunders. “When you’re 0-12 to start the game, it sucks the energy out of you. When you fall behind so hard, you can’t see where you’re at. Our second group was the one that played with energy and probably played with more spirit than anybody.”
The Magic improved to 5-2, while the Wizards fell to a league-worst 0-6 and the worst start in Bullets/Wizards franchise history. With 60 games left, Washington will need to look for some positives anywhere it can find them. If there was one encouraging stat in a blowout, it was John Wall’s five assists and no turnovers.
But once again, the Wizards’ starters looked disjointed, while the backups played with more cohesion, leading Saunders to speculate that maybe it’s time to shake things up.
“In all our games, we’ve shot about 20 percent in the first quarter,” Saunders said. “We’re going to have to do something with our starters, personnel-wise or whatever, but somehow we’ve got to have some juice to start games. We took one step forward [against Boston] and two steps back [tonight].”
The Magic put on a clinic, with superior ball movement, shot selection and defense, and it didn’t help that Howard seemed to get nearly every foul call. Howard finished with 28 points, 20 rebounds and three blocked shots — and all three were borderline goaltending.
“It was lopsided. Dwight [Howard] dominated the game,” Saunders said.
Lewis had hoped for a better outcome against his former team, but ended up dismayed by the effort from his current one.
“I don’t think nobody competed — at all,” Lewis said. “It’s very tough. I was looking forward to this game just because of the fact that we played awesome in Boston. We played hard. We played together: We moved the ball, we played defense, and tonight it was totally different. Tonight, we came out here and made it easy for them.”
Responding to Saunders’ comments that the team took one step forward and two steps back, Lewis shook his head.
“[No], we took five steps back tonight after the Boston game,” Lewis said. “I thought a lot of guys had an attitude tonight. I’m not saying no names, but it seemed like everybody had body language. We try to motivate the guys and keep coming to the bench saying we got to keep playing hard, but it seemed like nobody was listening tonight.”
As the game drew to a close, a quick glance toward the Washington bench revealed a variety of emotions — from anger to frustration to despair.
The Magic held onto their 20-plus point margin for most of the game and never took their foot off the gas. It’s how a team competes whose hoping to play for a championship. It’s something the Wizards are no where near.
Wall agreed with Saunders and Lewis — the Wizards are regressing.