- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

So much for going undefeated in 2004.

A game removed from one of their better performances of the season, and three days after a soul-searching meeting they hoped would restore faith in each other, the Washington Wizards reverted to their old ways yesterday in a 100-94 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at MCI Center.

The Wizards failed to put together what would have been just their third two-game winning streak of the season and fell to 9-22.

The Bucks improved to 17-16.

As is the case so often for the Wizards, the loss was the result of them not being able to put together back-to-back halves of consistent play. They were outscored 45-39 in the second half after being tied 55-55 at halftime.

“They took it to us and we couldn’t stop them,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We have to stay organized. That’s what we preach every day. When we’re not organized we’re not a good team.”

Some of that disorganization occurred before the game when point guard Gilbert Arenas was benched for playing pool in the players’ lounge and not being on the court for a shootaround with the team at 12:30p.m. before the 2p.m. tip-off.

“I was doing my routine, playing pool,” said Arenas, who finished with 18 points. “We have to be on the floor at 12:30 to shoot with the team.”

As muddled as Arenas’ decision making was, there were other reasons why the Wizards have lost six of their last seven games

After making all but one of their first nine shots from the floor, the Wizards’ shooting touch abandoned them.

And the prime offender was Larry Hughes. Hughes, who finished with 14 points, at one point missed 17 shots in a row and finished 5-for-23 from the field.

“I started out pretty good but after that it was downhill,” said Hughes, who made his first four shots. “I guess everybody has a night like this. I don’t think I would have played that long if I was taking bad shots.”

The Wizards lost despite Kwame Brown’s career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds. Brown scored 18 of his team’s 22 points during a stretch that bridged the first and second quarters. But an exhausted Brown asked to be pulled from the game with 7:05 left in the first half and scored just five points in the second half.

“I asked him if he was tired,” Jordan said. “If he was not tired he was going to play. We got some relief tonight with Kwame playing well in the post.”

Brown said he was tired, but he added that the play of his teammates helped him to his career day.

“I did nothing but be in the right place at the right time,” Brown said. “Give the credit to the guards because they penetrated and kicked. If they do that I can put up those numbers every game.”

The Wizards played well enough to be tied at halftime and they looked as though they might carry that momentum into the second half and send the smallest crowd this season (12,073) home happy.

But the Wizards scored just 39 points in the second half, committed 12 of their 19 turnovers and couldn’t stop the Bucks’ Michael Redd. Redd, a reserve last season and runner-up in the Sixth Man balloting, starts now and he scored 18 of his game-high 27 points after intermission

“I believe everyone was more alert,” Bucks coach Terry Porter said of his team’s defense in the second half. “Everyone was active with their hands in the passing lanes, and we were able to get our hands on a couple of balls which helped us to get some stops when we needed them.”

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