Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders didn’t mince words when it came to the 103-78 drubbing his team received at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers during its preseason home opener at Verizon Center on Friday night.
“I was disappointed with our main guys. They got their [butts] kicked out there,” Saunders said. “For how hard we played in practice, how hard we competed, that didn’t translate over, and that’s the one thing I was waiting to see.”
The Wizards lost by 25 points, and the game wasn’t even that close. The 76ers pulled out to a 40-point lead early in the third quarter, at which point Saunders called a timeout and replaced all five of his starters.
“I was tired of looking at that [expletive],” Saunders said. “It’s not about individuals, it’s a team game. It’s not the five best players, it’s the five best players that play the best together, not the five most talented players. The message to those guys: If you don’t play and you’re not giving effort as a team, you’re not going to play, no matter who it is.”
Saunders was sending a clear message to his starters, who were outplayed by his second-team squad, made up of Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, Shelvin Mack, Kevin Seraphin and Roger Mason Jr. The only bright spot in the game was watching Mason lead the second team during the fourth quarter. The second team scored 27 points, while holding the 76ers to 16. The highest point total by the starters was 18, in the second quarter, while giving up 25, 31 and 31 in the other three quarters.
Only Andray Blatche scored in double figures, with 18 points and four rebounds.
The most troubling line of the night belonged to John Wall — eight points on 3 of 12 shooting, with three assists and six turnovers.
“He was terrible. He was bad,” Saunders said of Wall. “He didn’t play with the same aggressiveness and passion that he played downstairs [on the practice court]. When you go into games and think about trying to get yourself going, it becomes very contagious.”
Saunders said his starters displayed a lack of trust in one another, while his backups did just the opposite; they played together.
“Our rookies all played good,” Saunders said. “That second group played hard. They don’t have a lot yet offensively, but they gave a good effort, and they were energetic and did some positive things. I thought Singleton played excellent. He was our best one-on-one defender on the floor.”
Mason, who scored eight points, called it the kind of game when you’d like to have a mulligan … only they don’t have mulligans in basketball.
“This is the type of game that should hurt, preseason or no preseason,” Mason said. “To get beat that way is unacceptable, and we’ll address it. We knew there were going to be mistakes out there, but the biggest thing we want to do was compete.
“I told the guys [referring to the second team], ‘Don’t look at the scoreboard, let’s just compete,’ and you have to give them credit. Those guys played hard.”
Blatche called the team’s performance nothing like what the team showed during training camp.
“There was no effort, there was no passion,” Blatche said. “It was like guys were out there just to be out there. We haven’t had over six turnovers during scrimmages over all of training camp.”
Wall was equally disappointed in the team’s poor play and lack of execution.
“It was like Philly was playing with nobody out there,” Wall said. “For us to win, [we’ve] got to play hard, [we’ve] got to play defense. We did neither one tonight.”
Redemption could come quickly. The Wizards will play their second and final preseason game against the 76ers on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
“It’s great. We have to make a statement,” Wall said. “They came in here and just took over the court from us. They did whatever they wanted, got any shot they wanted the whole night. We can’t let teams know it’s going to be that easy; if we do it’s going to be like another practice game to them.”
• Carla Peay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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