- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY The Washington Wizards had been talking about making a statement against a Western Conference team, one that would announce them as a serious threat to that packed house of lower-echelon teams in the East with an eye toward the playoffs.
Last night they did. Unfortunately, against a much more feisty and seemingly more interested Utah Jazz team at Delta Center, that statement was overwhelmingly negative. Washington trailed by 28 points at halftime as the Jazz handed the Wizards their worst beating of the season 109-77.
"The game was over in the first four minutes," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "They just beat us in every way. … They could have beaten us by 70 points tonight if they wanted."
Washington, which was just 26 of 72 (36 percent) from the floor, was led by Larry Hughes (14 points), Etan Thomas (12) and Michael Jordan (11). It marked the second time in three games the Wizards have been routed. On Tuesday, Sacramento beat Washington by 19.
Against the Jazz, the Wizards trailed by 42 points in the third quarter.
"It was a lack of effort," Jordan said. "No energy. We just didn't answer the challenge."
Before the game, many in the Washington contingent appeared to be more concerned with getting out of Utah and beating the snow forecast for the Washington area this weekend than the task at hand.
"We laid an egg and they took it to us," said Bryon Russell, who had three points in his return to Utah. "That team tonight just picked us apart. They did anything and everything they wanted to do. Time is running out. If we wait too long we'll be going home in April."
It's hard for a professional basketball team to perpetrate some of the horrendous things the Wizards did in the first half. Winners of three of their last four games heading into the game, the Wizards made just nine field goals in the half. They shot just 25.7 percent from the floor and didn't produce any points on the fastbreak.
Meanwhile, their nonexistent defense produced just a pair of Utah turnovers. It was a beating so complete that the second half, which began with Utah leading 58-30, was little more than a conditioning session in the high altitude of Salt Lake City.
Utah made 39 of 79 field goal attempts for the game and outrebounded the Wizards 47-33.
Although Utah is playing better than it was expected to this season, this was not so much a case of the Jazz being dominant as it was of the Wizards just being flat-out bad.
At one point late in the third quarter, with the Jazz leading 79-41, an audibly collective laugh could be heard after Tyronn Lue's layup attempt in traffic clanged off the bottom of the rim.
The loss highlighted the difference between the Wizards and the formidable Western Conference. Washington is now 1-7 in road games against the West. The Wizards also fell to 0-7 against the Midwest Division. Washington has not won at Utah since Nov.3, 1997.
Considering their struggles on the road against the Western Conference and the Midwest Division, the Wizards' opening statement gave no indication that they were trying to buck the trend of futility.
Washington fell behind 13-8 after Karl Malone fed John Stockton for a layup with 5:21 to play in the first quarter.
Perhaps sensing that the Wizards might be bullied by the physical Jazz, Collins inserted burly Charles Oakley into the lineup to exchange elbows with Karl Malone (game-high 23 points), and it wasn't long before the fireworks the only ones of the night started.
Note Jerry Stackhouse, who missed his fifth game in a row with a groin injury, is scheduled to practice with the team tomorrow and play Monday against Toronto at MCI Center.

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