- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Thud.
The Washington Wizards packed a number of gaffes, foul-ups, bloopers and blunders into last night's 84-75 loss against the Toronto Raptors at MCI Center.
Other than that, they did nothing. There was no rhythm, very few spurts by either team, and absolutely, positively no entertainment value.
And, there was no Jerry Stackhouse, who is expected to be out for at least a week with a pulled left groin.
It was an embarrassing loss to the second worst team in the league, which had lost seven consecutive road games and 12 of its last 13 before the Wizards provided the soothing liniment that a 34 percent shooting performance (29-for-85) can be in this league.
What made this loss particularly disheartening for the Wizards is the fact that Raptors working on 10-day contracts, and who most recently plied their trade in places such as Mobile, Ala., and North Charleston, S.C., played major roles in dispatching the Wizards.
Rafer Alston made the Mobile Revelers of the NBDL proud with 13 points and 11 assists. And Damone Brown, who joined the Raptors (10-28) yesterday morning via the NBDL's North Charleston Lowgators, had 13 points and four rebounds despite probably having never practiced with the Raptors.
"Damone Brown just showed up here tonight and he gets 13," Wizards coach Doug Collins bemoaned.
The victory was Toronto's second in its last 14 games.
It was so bad for the Wizards that the Raptors, on their last possession of the game, dribbled the shot clock down to prevent the ugly game's outcome from being any worse than it already was.
"I don't want to disrespect Toronto, I mean, they've got a good team. But this has got to be more important to us than it was to them," Collins said. "It has to be more important. I mean, yesterday we were talking about home-court advantage."
Collins said that playing without Stackhouse no doubt hurt the Wizards (19-19) but said it shouldn't have thrown them off to the point where they were as bad as they have been at any point in this season.
"For some reason I just couldn't get the guys to understand the sense of urgency," Collins said. "Sure, not having Jerry had an affect. I think you can see how much Jerry brings to our team now, especially with his energy. Jerry is a high energy guy. You take him out of our lineup and our team doesn't have a lot of energy. I was hoping that some of these guys coming off the bench would give us some energy. But everybody was flat."
The Wizards squandered a chance to be in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they fall back to No.7, tied with Orlando, which plays at MCI Center tomorrow.
Following Monday's practice, and with the knowledge that they would be without their leading scorer Stackhouse is averaging 22.5 points Collins and his charges were talking about winning all four games on this homestand, which picks up with Orlando tomorrow. Philadelphia and Denver also visit before the Wizards venture back on the road next week.
It was so bad that when the Wizards' locker room opened to the media, few players responsible for the debacle were even there.
"It's unexplainable," said Larry Hughes, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. "We didn't take them easy, we just couldn't stop them. They got what they wanted and we weren't playing any defense. They were shooting layups and we were shooting jump shots. It's easier to make layups as the game goes along."
Michael Jordan, who often holds court following games, did not address the media after scoring 22 points on 8-for-25 shooting.
But there was little that could be said. The Raptors had eight healthy players, including the three signed to 10-day deals.
Former Georgetown Hoya Jerome Williams finished with 14 points and 20 rebounds, and Morris Peterson led the Raptors with 21 points.
The Raptors have been without injured superstar Vince Carter since he went down with a strained right knee 18 games ago.
But Carter wasn't the only injured Raptor. They have been mauled by the injury bug.
The depleted Toronto roster presented little resistance at the beginning of the game as the Wizards took a 10-0 lead, and the Raptors looked every bit the team that is positioning itself to draft Lebron James.
Still, Toronto, which hadn't won a road game since it defeated Milwaukee on Dec.17, managed to close to within 20-18 by the start of the second quarter.
Toronto shot a miserable percentage (27.3) in the first quarter, but it somewhat made amends for that in the second when it connected on 52.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the Wizards played sluggishly in the second, shooting 36 percent but still led at halftime (43-38) because they dominated the boards, 30-18.
That the Wizards were flat, or even disinterested, continued to be apparent at the start of the second half, when the Raptors scored the first three baskets and forced a miffed Collins to call a timeout with 8:48 left in the quarter and the Raptors down by 44-43.
But the timeout failed to inject any life in Washington as Toronto outplayed the Wizards the rest of the quarter.
The newly invigorated Raptors had a statistical smorgasbord in the third quarter, particularly under the glass where their enthusiasm produced a 19-7 rebound advantage. It also established a tone for the rest of game.
Toronto outscored the Wizards 21-13 in the quarter, led 59-56 at the end of three quarters and set the Wizards up for their fall to reality in the fourth quarter.


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