- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

MINNEAPOLIS — Gilbert Arenas dashed from the shower in the visitor’s locker room at Target Center with soap still covering his body, complaining about what his teammates already knew in the aftermath of the Washington Wizards’ 98-94 loss to Minnesota.

The hot water didn’t work.

On an afternoon when the Wizards (31-23) shot a frigid 37.6 percent from the floor, the shower reference was a perfect metaphor.

“We shot the ball pretty bad tonight, real bad, so that had something to do with it,” Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said. “Our shots weren’t falling.”

Stevenson led the Wizards with 21 points. He was the only Wizards player who shot the ball with any type of accuracy, going 9-for-12 from the field. Subtract Stevenson’s shooting from the equation and the Wizards, who fell to 0-2 on this three-game road trip that concludes tomorrow in New Jersey, made just 31.5 percent of their shots.

Give the Wizards some credit, though, because of the circuitous route they took to yesterday’s game, which was played at the end of a vicious blizzard in the Upper Midwest.

The blizzard turned what would have been a one-hour flight from Chicago to Minnesota into a 12-hour trip, one in which the Wizards were forced to land in Duluth, Minn., wait on a runway for three hours, bus to a hotel and endure another bus ride — that one a four-hour trip — that brought them to their hotel in snowy Minneapolis a little after midnight yesterday morning.

From there it was all downhill for the Wizards, all of whom said the long trip had no effect on how they played. However, the long travel day might have contributed to Caron Butler missing his first game of the season.

Butler was a late-game scratch because of back spasms that developed right before the game. That left the Wizards without two of their best players; Antawn Jamison missed his 10th straight game with a sprained left knee.

That left Arenas to carry the scoring load, and he responded with one of his worst shooting performances of the season. Arenas finished with 20 points but clearly didn’t have his shooting touch, making just four of 22 field goals. He was even worse from behind the 3-point line, where he connected on just one of his 11 attempts.

“I had good looks, but I didn’t make them,” Arenas said. “If we had gotten a rebound at the end, who knows, maybe they would have cut the hot water on.”

With the Timberwolves leading 95-93 in the fourth quarter, Kevin Garnett (26 points, 17 rebounds) rebounded the second of two missed free throws by center Mark Blount with 17.2 seconds left. Garnett then passed the ball to rookie Randy Foye, who was fouled and converted a pair of free throws for a 97-93 advantage that sealed the Minnesota’s win.

The Wizards received small contributions from Andray Blatche and Jarvis Hayes, the players Jordan was forced to go with as injury replacements. Together they combined to shoot 4-for-20 from the field. Blatche had six points and six rebounds, and Hayes finished with seven points and five rebounds.

The Wizards got a season-high 13 points from Roger Mason.

The Timberwolves outrebounded the Wizards 50-41. Garnett’s rebound at the end of the game irked Jordan, who thought the Wizards played well despite missing two of their three best players.

“We just couldn’t get the key rebounds,” Jordan said. “I have no complaints, but we just couldn’t get key rebounds, and we couldn’t make shots. We still gave them a tough game considering the guys that we didn’t have.”

Minnesota (26-30) countered with a much more balanced scoring attack, getting a game-high 27 points out of Ricky Davis, 13 points and eight assists from Foye and 10 points out of Trenton Hassell.

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