As the Washington Wizards walked off the court with a halftime lead over visiting Seattle, coach Eddie Jordan didn’t wear the same smile his players did.
Jordan scoffed at how they allowed the SuperSonics to narrow a double-digit first-quarter deficit to six points.
So at halftime of what eventually became a 108-86 rout yesterday, Jordan voiced his concerns.
“It wasn’t angry. It was just a reality check just telling us that we hadn’t done anything,” said Wizards forward Caron Butler, who scored a game-high 33 points. “We beat a Milwaukee team without their star player [Michael Redd] the other night. That was a quality win for us on the road, but at the same time we had another game in front of us that we could win, so don’t get comfortable with the lead right here.
“We didn’t,” Butler continued. “We came out and applied pressure and did what we were supposed to do.”
Washington (17-15) shot 22-for-43 from the field in the second half while outscoring the Sonics (9-24) 56-40. The Wizards, who tallied a season-high 15 steals, forced Seattle into 15 of its 22 turnovers in the second half.
Despite the Wizards’ injury problems this season, Jordan said he will continue to push them hard.
“We beat Milwaukee, who was down, and we won tonight against Seattle. We also beat another team that was down [Miami],” Jordan said. “I don’t want to be talking about challenging Detroit and Boston for a championship right now. I told them at halftime, ‘We’re not that good. We’re not Boston. We’re not Detroit. We’re not that good to come out here and play the half that we played.’ I just wanted to stroke a fire and put reality on the table.”
The Wizards never led by double figures in the third quarter, but they didn’t let the Sonics back in the game either. With an 82-71 lead early in the fourth, Washington capitalized on six Seattle turnovers and embarked on a 22-5 run.
“Most of our turnovers led to layups,” Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “It was a turnover and then a breakaway layup. I think we had three that were almost in the same identical spot. Then they got more aggressive and turned up the heat defensively. From that time on we just hung our heads.”
Wizards forward Antawn Jamison totaled 21 points and 10 rebounds for his 21st double-double of the season. Antonio Daniels recorded his third double-double of the season (13 points and 10 assists to go with four steals). DeShawn Stevenson added 13 points, and Brendan Haywood finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
District native Kevin Durant led the Sonics with 19 points. Fellow rookie and Georgetown alum Jeff Green struggled with eight points on 4-for-13 shooting and a game-high five turnovers. Nick Collison had 13 points and a game-high 17 rebounds. Reserve guard Wally Szczerbiak added 18 points, and veteran Kurt Thomas contributed seven points and 13 rebounds.
The Wizards’ schedule gets tougher this week with games against Houston, Atlanta and Boston.
“This is a very important stretch,” Jamison said. “If you can win those games and then get some space between those wins and the losses, it makes you feel better as a team. These are some big games that we have to win.”
Yesterday at Verizon Center
SEEN AND HEARD
Rookies Dominic McGuire and Nick Young and third-year player Andray Blatche won’t sit together in the far corner of the locker room much longer.
When team captain Antawn Jamison came into the locker room, he saw the younger players gathered in a group laughing and, in Jamison’s opinion, not preparing properly for the game.
Having seen enough, Jamison said he would break up the group and try to put them near some of the veterans (himself, Antonio Daniels and Caron Butler) so they can better understand the preparation that’s needed for a game.
“I’m not singling them out, but they have to develop more focus — this is the NBA,” Jamison said. “We are more than 30 games into the season and we’re going to need them to contribute off the bench. They have to have the mind-set to contribute.”
BY THE NUMBERS
22 Turnovers by the SuperSonics, twice as many as the Wizards committed.
— John N. Mitchell