- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coming off a four-game road trip and making an appearance at Verizon Center on Monday night before leaving for two more games, Washington Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said he was glad to be back.

He just hoped his players wouldn’t fall prey to “first-game-home syndrome.”

“That’s when you’re so happy to be home that you actually forget to show up and play,” he explained.

The Wizards’ All-Star tandem of Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler did more than just show up against the Phoenix Suns. The problem: The majority of their teammates apparently were suffering from the affliction.

After riding the hot hands of Jamison and Butler in the first half, the Wizards needed additional firepower to maintain their pace, but they didn’t get it. The Suns methodically pulled away in the second half for a 103-87 victory.

The loss dropped Washington to 9-35 - the worst record in the NBA. Oklahoma City improved to 10-35 with a home victory against New Jersey.

As if the defeat weren’t damage enough, the Wizards lost starting center Andray Blatche with 4:11 left when he hurt his left knee in a collision with Suns center Shaquille O’Neal. Blatche, previously one of only two healthy centers on the Wizards’ roster, rolled on the floor in pain for several minutes and then remained unable to put any weight on the knee before hopping off.

X-rays showed no structural damage; Blatche, who had a large bruise on the inside of his thigh and knee, said he would be back for Wednesday’s game at Miami.

O’Neal feasted on the Wizards for a game-high 29 points - including 9-for-10 shooting from the foul line - and eight rebounds to lead the Suns. Amare Stoudemire added 22 points and 15 rebounds; Leandro Barbosa tallied 23 off the bench. Steve Nash had 15 assists to go with 14 points.

The Wizards got 28 points from Butler and 27 from Jamison. Aside from Blatche’s 12 points, no other Wizards player managed more than six.

“They did a good job getting stops and executing. You can’t let the big fella get it going, and he was feeling it tonight,” Jamison said. “Steve Nash got everybody involved, and then Barbosa came off the bench and gave them a spark - and we didn’t get that spark from our bench tonight.”

The Wizards also got beat down low; Phoenix pulled down 53 rebounds to Washington’s 38 and outscored the Wizards 56-28 in the paint.

Jamison carried the Wizards in the first quarter, scoring 15 points on 4-for-7 shooting. With 2:27 left in the quarter, Jamison made a pair of free throws to give the Wizards a 22-15 lead. At that moment, Jamison had 15 points - as many as the Suns had.

The Wizards held a 24-22 lead after one quarter and remained in front until the Suns went on a 7-4 run to tie the score at 44-44 with 2:43 left in the second. The teams went to halftime knotted at 51-51.

But the Suns used an 11-3 run to go up 65-54 in the first four minutes of the third quarter, and they never trailed from that point on. Jamison and Butler were held in check late. Butler scored just nine points in the second half, and Jamison scored only seven. Each player had only two points in the fourth quarter.

“I can’t ask my two forwards to do any more than they’re doing,” Tapscott said. “In the fourth quarter, they all load up against them. Someone else has to drive toward the basket. If you look at our shot distribution in the fourth quarter, you won’t see many in the paint.

“You live by the jump shot, you die by the jump shot.”

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