- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

There are a couple of ways to look at the Washington Wizards’ three-game losing streak.

One rationale holds that this team, with all its new faces, has the same record (5-4) that last year’s playoff team did and that it still is trying to figure out what does and doesn’t work.

Then there is the negative view: Last year’s team didn’t drop three games in a row until Feb. 1, 44 games into the season.

This might make for a healthy barstool debate, but there is no question among the current Wizards that the first premise is more accurate.

“Throughout the course of an 82-game schedule, you’re going to have your highs and your lows,” forward Antawn Jamison said. “You can’t get too high with the highs, and you can’t get too low with the lows. We can’t get jittery about a couple of losses. We left here on a high note, and maybe that trip brought us back to reality a little bit. But nobody’s put their finger on the panic button.”

The Wizards didn’t miss a beat at the start of the season without departed star Larry Hughes — he was replaced by solid players like Caron Butler, Antonio Daniels and Chucky Atkins — and jumped to a 5-1 record. That beginning included a 137-point effort against Seattle and a rousing 15-point blowout of defending champion San Antonio.

But the road, where wins were hard to come by last season, once again has proved to be an uncomfortable place. The Wizards dropped all three games of their latest trip, and some of the same questions that have nagged them in the past resurfaced.

Their defense was invisible at the end of games. Their free-throw shooting remains a problem. And in their most recent loss to New Jersey, coach Eddie Jordan benched All-Star Gilbert Arenas — last week’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week — to drive home the point to his players that they must be more disciplined.

“We’ve had some problems discipline-wise coming down the stretch,” Jordan said. “We’ve had some serious problems with free-throw shooting. But if you look at all three games on the road, they were very competitive coming down the stretch. The Cleveland game got away from us. But we’ve had our chances. So like Antawn said, we’re not close to pushing the panic button although we still need to solve some problems.”

The Wizards are looking for more consistency, starting tonight at MCI Center against a surging Denver team that might be without forward Kenyon Martin (knee tendinitis).

In their last two victories against Seattle and San Antonio, the Wizards had excellent ball movement. They had a season-high 31 assists against the SuperSonics and a total of 52 in the two games. But in their two most recent losses to Minnesota and New Jersey, the Wizards had a total of just 28.

Point guard Daniels was upset about the team’s failure to move the ball. And while he’s not worried that this is an uncorrectable problem, he knows it must be fixed fast.

“It’s very difficult to win without [ball movement]. You won’t beat a lot of teams playing one-on-one basketball,” Daniels said. “Like I said from day one, chemistry beats talent any day. The more we move the ball, the better we play together; the better our chemistry is, the harder it will be to beat us.”

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