Wednesday, April 4, 2007

CHARLOTTE — If last night’s game was any indicator, the Washington Wizards are in trouble.

With 10 games left in the regular season, the Wizards — even without Caron Butler — were supposed to have overpowered the lottery-bound Charlotte Bobcats, board a plane back home and beat the same team again tonight.

Instead, Washington allowed all five Charlotte starters to score in double figures and allowed Charlotte to shoot 57.3 percent en route to a 122-102 victory at Bobcats Arena.

The loss, coupled with Miami’s victory over Toronto, knocked the Wizards from fourth place to sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Shortly after, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan was asked if he was happy the Wizards will see the same Bobcats tonight at Verizon Center.

“Only if you play harder and you play better and you play like you’re supposed to play,” Jordan said. “You have to stop people, have quality possessions and give yourself a chance. That’s the only way it’s better tomorrow.”

The Wizards (39-34) have had trouble stopping opponents all year, and that probably won’t change any time soon — especially without Butler, who was second in the league in steals and fractured his hand while trying to block a dunk on Sunday.

In 10 games this season without Butler, the Wizards are just 2-8.

“Some of the guys on this team are going to have to step up and take that challenge to be the nasty guy that Caron is,” said DeShawn Stevenson, who finished with 17 points. “It’s got to be me, maybe Jarvis. It’s got to be somebody who will go out there and make hard fouls and not take anything from anybody on the court. Hopefully we can get a guy who can step up and be a pit bull and not let anybody disrespect us.”

Jordan has said he didn’t expect Butler’s replacements to provide the All-Star’s 19 points and nearly eight rebounds a game. But he surely wanted to see some aggression.

Jarvis Hayes, who started in place of Butler, had two points on 1-for-6 shooting and was replaced by a rookie (Mike Hall) making his NBA debut.

The Bobcats took command of the game during a seven minute stretch of the second quarter, outscoring the Wizards 19-8 to take a 57-41 lead. From that point on, they had no problem brushing off the uninspired Wizards.

Gilbert Arenas led Washington with 33 points but had trouble shooting the ball, finishing 6-for-14 in the first half and 5-for-12 in the second.

Antawn Jamison struggled with his shot as well. Jamison, who grabbed 11 rebounds, had no touch on his shot and finished with just six points on 3-for-16 shooting.

Darius Songaila accounted for almost all of the bench’s points, finishing with 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Etan Thomas, making his second start since Jordan benched Brendan Haywood, finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds.

None of this, however, could offset the monster game from Gerald Wallace of the Bobcats (29-46). Wallace, who scored 40 points against the Wizards earlier this season, finished with 34 points and 14 rebounds.

Rookie Walter Herrmann finished with 21 points, Emeka Okafor added 17 points and 13 rebounds and guard Raymond Felton totaled 17 points and 14 assists. Former Wizards player Brevin Knight also had 12 assists in a reserve role.

“We didn’t take the challenge to play defense,” Stevenson said. “We let Gerald Wallace do whatever he wanted to do. We let the point guards pass where ever they wanted to pass. It was a horrible day for us.”

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