- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 7, 2009

Another night, another ugly loss for the short-handed Washington Wizards.

Two nights after having only eight healthy players in a lopsided loss to the visiting New Jersey Nets, the Wizards dressed nine players while hosting the Denver Nuggets. But they remained just as inept in a 124-103 thrashing before what began as a sellout crowd of 20,173 at Verizon Center but by midway through the third quarter was rather sparse.

The 124 points marked the second-highest point total allowed by the Wizards this season, behind the 128 points Washington gave up to New York on Jan. 14.

Playing without No. 2 scorer Caron Butler for the second straight game, the Wizards put on a listless performance. They were outrebounded 43-38, committed 13 turnovers - which led to 24 Denver points - and allowed seven Nuggets players to score in double digits, led by Carmelo Anthony’s 23 points.

The Nuggets (34-16) outran the Wizards (10-40) to the tune of a 27-6 advantage on fast-break scoring opportunities and hammered Washington for 56 points in the paint, including 12 dunks on either breakaway plays or uncontested backdoor cuts to the basket.

“We know they’re athletic, we know what type of team they have, but it’s embarrassing to get beat backdoor time after time and not rebound,” Antawn Jamison fumed. “Honestly, I thought some of our guys were scared to play out there tonight. For me, what are you supposed to do?”

Jamison was the main scoring threat for the Wizards while the game remained competitive as he recorded 21 first-half points. But with Butler out of the lineup, the Nuggets overloaded on the two-time All-Star in the second half and limited him to just five points and two rebounds in the final two quarters.

Meanwhile, fellow starters Dominic McGuire, Darius Songaila, Mike James and Javaris Crittenton combined for only 32 points - and just 10 in the second half.

The game featured the 11th different starting lineup this season for the Wizards, who in addition to missing Butler also were still without DeShawn Stevenson (back), Andray Blatche (knee), Etan Thomas (knee), Gilbert Arenas (knee) and Brendan Haywood.

While the Wizards were still scrambling to fill the many roster holes, the Nuggets, who had just gotten Carmelo Anthony back earlier this week, also had Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin back in uniform Friday night.

Despite that disparity, the Wizards got off to a strong start and held a 21-14 lead with 4:39 left in the first quarter.

But Denver reeled off a 14-2 run to close out the quarter and led 30-23 heading into the second. Leading the way for the Nuggets was backup swingman Chris Andersen, who scored six of his 13 points points during the run. Denver kept rolling in the second quarter, outscoring Washington 38-25 while shooting 64 percent from the field to take a 68-48 advantage into halftime.

By the completion of the first half, the Wizards had committed seven turnovers leading to 12 Denver points, and the Nuggets boasted 14 fast-break points and seven dunks.

Things didn’t get any better for the Wizards in the second half. The only bright spot was 17 points from Young, but by the time he went off, the game was already well out of reach. When Tapscott called a timeout to halt another Denver run with his team down 99-63 and 1:49 left in the period, the home crowd rained down a chorus of boos.

Later in the fourth quarter, with the game clock winding down, some Wizards fans started to do the wave - unaware that rookie center JaVale McGee was at the foul line attempting a pair of shots.

“That’s embarrassing,” Jamison said. “Your job is to play, compete and entertain, and it’s pretty bad when the home crowd’s got to do the wave to entertain themselves.”

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