With 7:31 left in the fourth quarter, the boos began to rain down loudly on the Wizards at Verizon Center on Sunday. Washington was down by 20 to the Minnesota Timberwolves and on its way to a 93-72 loss.
The Wizards are 0-8, and remain the NBA’s only winless team.
“There’s really not much to say,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said after the game, showing more emotion than he has since the opening-night loss to the New Jersey Nets, when Washington blew a 21-point lead. Saunders used more than one expletive that evening. After Sunday’s loss, he looked like he was ready to use a few more.
“Disappointment. Embarrassment. I don’t know if words can explain. My job over the next two days is to try to find five guys that can play the right way and can play with some heart.”
Saunders has been dropping hints for the past couple of games that changes in his lineup were imminent. The Wizards had only played two games of what could even be considered competitive basketball - the second game of a home-and-home against Boston on Jan. 2 and home against New York on Friday night.
“We’re not good enough,” Saunders said. “We are not good enough as individual players, and we think at times that we’re good enough to go out and just play. We’re not that. We’ve got to play guys that can play the right way with some intelligence, that are going to play hard. If you do that, you give yourselves a chance.”
With Rashard Lewis sidelined with a sore right knee, Chris Singleton got the start and played 39:58, going 1-of-8 for three points, and seven rebounds.Rookie Jan Vesely also played for the first time this season, scoring two points in 9:16.
Trevor Booker played 28:29 and scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, but no one on the Wizards could do anything to stop Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love (20 points, 16 rebounds) and point guard Ricky Rubio (13 points, 14 assists off the bench).
“Tonight, I thought that Booker played with passion and played hard,” Saunders said “We’ve got to get everybody playing like that.”
With the losses mounting, it’s unlikely that any team will ease up on the Wizards. No team will want to give up that first win, especially when a quick glance at Washington’s scouting report provides a blueprint on how to beat them.
“Mostly everybody knows we’re going to be a one-on-one team, so it’s easy to guard somebody when they go one-on-one all the time,” John Wall said.
“I don’t know why [we keep losing], you just got to keep playing basketball. That’s the main thing to do, just play, and hopefully everything will change. Some games we move the ball and we play good. Some games, we don’t. We want to go one-on-one and things get tougher.”
To hear the post-game conversation, it seems as though Saunders and his players have identified the problem, but finding a solution seems to be eluding this team.
“To be honest with you, I’m kind of speechless after this performance,” Andray Blatche said.
“We tend to panic when we get down by seven or nine points. We go into panic mode, and everybody want to be that guy that gets those nine points back. But like Flip always says, there’s no nine-point basket.