- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

OAKLAND, Calif. | Two weeks ago, the struggling Washington Wizards embarked on a stretch that featured eight games against teams with losing records. The Wizards saw it as a golden opportunity to make a run toward saving their season.

So much for that.

On Monday, the Wizards played the seventh game of that supposed soft portion of their schedule. The outcome was familiar: another loss, this time 119-98 to Golden State.

Instead of taking five, six, seven or even eight steps forward, the Wizards dropped to 1-6 during the stretch. The final game is Wednesday at Sacramento. From there, the schedule gets significantly tougher, with the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland, Phoenix and Miami awaiting in a seven-day stretch.

It’s not an encouraging outlook, considering the Wizards (8-32) failed to take advantage of the worst defensive team in the league Monday. The Wizards managed just three double-digit scorers - Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche, who each had 22. Washington got outrebounded 41-38, allowed five Golden State players - led by Jamal Crawford’s 28 points - to score in double digits and, after losing a brief lead five minutes in, never led again.

With the loss - the first stop on a four-game, six-day West Coast swing - the Wizards fell to 2-17 on the road.

“It’s almost Groundhog Day,” Jamison said. “This reminds me of the game [Wednesday] in New York. We pretty much got what we wanted offensively, but I’m not going to take anything away from them because they really stroked the ball. But for us, you have to guard your man, and you really have to help. But when they start dribble-penetrating and beating their guy and nobody steps up and gets in front of the man… that’s a nice mixture for disaster.”

Having succeeded in executing interim coach Ed Tapscott’s game plan of attacking the basket and playing with a more methodical approach in Friday’s rematch with the Knicks, the Wizards entered Monday’s game with a similar mindset. But once it began, that strategy was forgotten; the Wizards launched jump shots on 14 of their first 16 attempts - and made only three of them while falling behind 17-10.

By the end of the first quarter, the Warriors held a 28-23 lead despite shooting just 38.5 percent, compared with the Wizards’ 40.7 percent. The difference was 4-for-7 shooting from 3-point range by Golden State; the Wizards attempted and made just one 3-pointer in the quarter.

“They do put pressure on you to score,” Tapscott said of the Warriors, who finished with 13 3-pointers on 21 attempts. “But it would be different if you tried to defend them with a little more passion, a little more discipline. Then you wouldn’t feel the pressure to keep pace if you were getting the stops. But we weren’t getting the stops.”

Corey Maggette came off the bench to ignite Golden State at the start of the second quarter, scoring nine points in a 15-10 burst that extended the Warriors’ lead to 43-33 in less than five minutes. The Wizards were paced by eight points in the quarter from Jamison and six off the bench from Nick Young, but without a way to slow the Warriors, they trailed 60-48 at halftime.

The Wizards managed to outscore Golden State 31-26 in the third quarter and pulled within 86-79 heading into the fourth. The Wizards’ charge was short-lived, though; they missed their first five shots of the fourth quarter and didn’t score until more than three minutes had elapsed.

“Every time we tried to make a run, they responded and our response fell flat,” Tapscott said. “We didn’t have the discipline to take advantage of prosperous moments - and so when they pushed back, we broke down.”

Golden State used a 33-point fourth quarter to run away from Washington, which allowed an opponent to surpass the 100-point mark for the 21st time this season.


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