- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Washington Wizards’ failure to defeat a bad Portland Trail Blazers team in the first game of their Western Conference road trip Tuesday night continued an ugly trend. Far too often this season the Wizards have been embarrassed against poor, shorthanded teams.

Lottery-bound Portland (27-40) pulled off the 100-98 victory at Rose Garden without its leading scorer and rebounder, Zach Randolph, who missed the game to attend a friend’s funeral.

The Wizards are shorthanded, too, and will be without Caron Butler (bruised knee) for the remaining four games of the trip. Meanwhile, they are trying to hold off a surging Southeast Division foe in Miami, which is winning without its best player, NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade.

Slightly more than two weeks ago, the Wizards blew what appeared to be an easy victory against Atlanta, another lottery team that was without key starters Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams and Speedy Claxton. That night the Wizards were close to full strength, with Butler and Antawn Jamison getting returning to form after injuries.

Perhaps the low point of the season occurred in January, when New Orleans beat the Wizards 104-97 with three starters out, including its best player, Chris Paul.

Last night’s opponent, Seattle, was without its second-best player, Rashard Lewis, in the team’s meeting in February. The Wizards won that game 118-108. Last night’s rematch ended too late for this edition.

Blazers own Arenas

It’s well known Gilbert Arenas wrote in his blog he would score 50 points when the Wizards faced Portland last month. But Arenas was a non-factor in that Feb. 11 meeting, and the Trail Blazers routed the Wizards by 21. Arenas finished with nine points, shot 3-for-15 from the floor and missed all eight of his 3-point attempts.

As Arenas pointed out in the locker room not long after that game, the Wizards would see the Trail Blazers again. What he didn’t anticipate was another dreadful shooting night in Tuesday’s rematch in Portland.

Arenas scored more points (19) on Tuesday, but his shooting was not much improved. He was just 4-for-16 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point range. At the finish, Arenas lofted a feeble, potential game-tying layup in the lane that lamely fell to the ground.

“I just shot blanks here,” Arenas said.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan acknowledged Arenas’ earlier comments probably inspired Portland, saying, “It affected how they played. Defensively they double teamed him and switched off on him. I think it really jacked them up twice now to play us.”

Hall sticks with team

Former George Washington forward Mike Hall, who had signed a pair of 10-day contracts but had yet to play in a game for the Wizards, signed with the team for the rest of the season. He appeared in five preseason games with Washington.

He averaged 15.6 points and 8.5 rebounds with the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA Development League before joining the Wizards.

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