- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

The Washington Wizards’ three games since the second half of the season started have reiterated one discouraging point: They can’t stop anyone.

That certainly includes the Houston Rockets, who shot 54 percent from the floor overall — 63 percent in the second half when they were supposed to be tiring — and had assists on 34 of 44 baskets in an 18-point victory.

Earlier, the New Orleans Hornets had their second-best shooting performance of the season against the Wizards, connecting on 55 percent to hand Washington its third consecutive 20-point loss.

“Very few nights in this league is it this easy,” Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said following his team’s romp.

The Wizards (16-37) closed the first half of the season losing to what is generally considered a weak Philadelphia team. But the 76ers still managed to beat the Wizards by 25 points.

What is certain is that the Wizards, before participating in this summer’s NBA Lottery, need to show that they can and want to stop someone.

“Ever since training camp, we’ve known that it has to start with our defense,” point guard Gilbert Arenas said. “We’ve had injuries all season long. And I think that when we are 100 percent healthy, our offense will take care of itself. But we’re all guilty of not playing defense.”

The Wizards have played poor defense all season long. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have the NBA’s worst road record or lead the league with 25 double-digit losses — a total they almost expanded in Friday’s 96-87 loss to Indiana. Eight of their defeats have been by 20 or more points.

Against the Pacers, the Wizards were outscored 28-16 in the fourth quarter. The only real highlight was Juan Dixon setting an MCI Center record for steals in one game (eight) and falling just one short of Michael Adams’ franchise record.

“It’s nice to get those, but it’s better for us to get some wins,” Dixon said.

Tonight at MCI Center against a dramatically improved Milwaukee team (28-25) under first-year coach Terry Porter, the Wizards will try to end their sixth four-game skid of the season.

“We need to get a win and we need to get one soon,” Arenas said. “We still want to accomplish things. We don’t want to keep getting embarrassed.”

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