- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2006

DENVER — With a little more than a minute left in the Washington Wizards’ game against the Denver Nuggets last night, the public address system started playing the 1980s R&B; tune by Gap Band, “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.”

More appropriately, Washington laid an egg.

With Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Nene all suspended — an absence of more than 50 points a game — the Nuggets built a 30-point lead and held on to defeat the Wizards 117-108 last night at Pepsi Center.

Earlier yesterday, the NBA handed out fines and suspensions stemming from the Nuggets’ brawl with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. While the Knicks might benefit from the suspensions — evidenced by a 97-96 overtime win over Utah last night — losing Anthony’s league-leading 31.6 points a game and Smith’s 16.7 eventually should present a problem for Denver.

It didn’t last night, though. Diminutive Earl Boykins (29 points), Marcus Camby (season-high 25 points, along with 17 rebounds) and Andre Miller (27 points) filled the void for Denver (14-9).

“[Anthony’s] the leading scorer in the league, but he’s really the isolation guy,” Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas said. “So we know what he’s going to do. I know they are just thinking that they have to get the team through this tough spot, and then they’ll have a great player coming back on fresh legs. They know the challenge they have.”

Caron Butler led the Wizards with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Arenas, a night after setting the franchise record with 60 points, added 23, and Antawn Jamison had 21.

Washington, which shot just 39.3 percent, rallied to within 93-91 with roughly five minutes left. But an 11-2 Denver run pushed the Nuggets’ lead to 104-93. And when Jarvis Hayes followed Camby’s layup with an air ball, the Nuggets’ lead was safe, and the Wizards (12-12) were back at .500.

After a dramatic 147-141 overtime victory in Los Angeles the night before, Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said he didn’t want to shortchange a team that was missing its best players. He pointed out that the NBA is a league of professionals. On any night, he said, players can step up and fill in.

That is exactly what happened last night.

Denver, even with players named Linas Kleiza and Yakhouba Diawara — a second-year player and a rookie, respectively, making their first starts of the season — presented problems for Washington early and did not let up.

The Nuggets scored 65 points in the first half, the most any opponent has tallied against the Wizards this season.

“We fought hard. They came out and jumped on us,” Stevenson said. “I thought we might get it down to about 10 or 15. I was surprised we cut it to two.”

The lethargic Wizards, who are off until they play back-to-back games at Sacramento on Thursday and Phoenix on Friday, allowed the Nuggets to shoot 54.3 percent from the floor in the first half.

Meanwhile, one night removed from posting a season high in points against the Lakers, the Wizards made just 35.3 percent of their shots in first half, making only three of 16 3s before halftime. Against an awful defensive team that they beat by 29 points last week (120-91), the Wizards managed just 43 in the first half.

Down 20 points at the start of the second quarter, the score seemed manageable considering the Nuggets’ shortcomings. The Nuggets, though, took their largest lead of the night at 52-22 on former Maryland standout Joe Smith’s driving layup with just under seven minutes remaining in the half.

Coming off a their most exciting victory of the season, the Wizards had to be concerned about fatigue and letdown.

Early on, both were glaringly apparent.



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