- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2007

Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas put it bluntly.

“It was like … they can’t miss nothing,” he said.

Losing to the Phoenix Suns — or even being routed by them as the Wizards were in their 127-105 loss Tuesday — is a common occurrence in the NBA. The Suns entered last night’s game at New York having won 30 of their last 32 games.

But in ending the Wizards’ 10-game Verizon Center winning streak, the Suns exposed every defensive wart the Wizards have managed to hide this season mostly because their offense is often as lethal as Phoenix’s.

The Suns made 60.8 percent of their shots. They made 13 3-pointers, many of them on wide-open looks at the basket. Seven of the eight Suns who played scored in double figures.

The Suns recorded 35 assists — 21 more than the Wizards — on their 48 field goals.

The Southeast Division-leading Wizards (24-17) had no problem admitting Phoenix outplayed them. But there is some concern among players that if the Wizards don’t start playing better defense now, they may not be able to switch into a defensive mode when the playoffs begin.

“We did not play well at all, and it lets you know that we still have a long way to go before we can truly become contenders,” forward Antawn Jamison said. “We knew that, but it’s truly a disgrace to come out and play the way we did on our floor, not offensively but defensively. There comes a time when you’ve just got to stop people.”

The Wizards, who led for just seven seconds all game, were outscored 41-20 in the first quarter.

Two-time reigning MVP Steve Nash finished the game 11-for-13 from the field en route to 27 points. He consistently was able to locate teammates cutting to the basket with their paths unimpeded or on the perimeter with enough time to get set and launch 3-pointers under little duress.

The Suns’ lead reached a game-high 29 points with more than six minutes left in the second quarter. What was expected to be one of the best games of the season turned difficult to watch for Wizards fans.

“We were missing shots, and they were getting out in transition, and we weren’t getting back on defense,” Caron Butler said.

Arenas pointed out that while the loss was ugly, the Wizards — who are at the midway point of the season — won’t dwell on the result.

“Look at what the Suns did. They lost to us, and now they’re on a 14-game winning streak,” he said. “We lost back-to-back games in San Antonio and Oklahoma, and we bounced back to win four in a row. You can’t worry about a loss in an 82-game season.”

And so Arenas and his teammates know they must turn their focus to defense.

“It’s got to change soon,” Jamison said. “Horrible is the only way to describe the way we played [vs. Phoenix]. You can’t wait until April and all of a sudden think you are going to be a good defensive team. We’ve got to do a better job of making it a point of emphasis.”

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