- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. — Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman must have felt like it was time to pull a rabbit out of his hat when his team faced the Orlando Magic on Wednesday at the Amway Center.

He was down yet another player when rookie Bradley Beal had to sit out with a lower back strain after taking a hard foul in Tuesday night’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Against Orlando, Wittman had to employ his eighth different starting lineup of the season, going with Shaun Livingston and Earl Barron in place of Beal and Chris Singleton. But once again, the Wizards came up short, losing 90-83.

Washington shot a better percentage from the floor and from three-point range than Orlando, but couldn’t overcome a dismal third quarter in which they were outscored 24-13.

“We lost the game in the third quarter,” Wittman said. “We came out and we cared more about ‘me’ than ‘we’. Who is getting shots, I need shots. Did we fight back get back in it? Yeah. We’re not good enough to overcome those things. We can’t play that way. That eight-minute stretch in the third quarter was ridiculous.”

The Wizards, losers of five straight, are now 3-20 and have just one day off before they have to play another set of back-to-backs, a home-and-home against the Detroit Pistons.

The mounting injuries are forcing Wittman to go all the way to the end of his bench, and he may have found some defensive help from Barron. Against Atanta, Barron played 26 minutes and had 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Against Orlando, his first start of the season, Barron who is clearly not used to playing in back-to-backs, played 20 minutes, scored two points and had five rebounds.

What Wittman hasn’t found is any confidence in last year’s sixth overall pick Jan Vesely, who can’t get off the bench even with the Wizards as shorthanded as they are. Vesely has played in just two of the team’s past nine games. Wittman said Vesely was a bit under the weather, but also admitted that as he continues to rework his lineup almost every game, there just aren’t any minutes left for Vesely.

“I’m looking for solutions,” Wittman said. “Again, it’s just a matter of execution more than anything else. We don’t have that guy you’re just going to give the ball to and say carry the load for us. Sometimes when you watch us play I think it looks like we think we have that guy.”

Nene led the way for Washington with a season-high 20 points and Jordan Crawford added 19 points and six assists. Cartier Martin and Martell Webster each had 11. Like his coach, Nene had harsh words for what he’s seeing on the court.

“Right now, we don’t think, we don’t play together enough,” Nene said. “Like a couple of quarters we play good and the last quarter, I don’t know what’s going on, like we losing focus. I hope we learn.”

His feet soaking in an ice tub, and his knees wrapped in ice packs, Nene said he plans to watch video of the game, as he does with every game, but said, sometimes, it’s a hard thing to watch.

“We don’t compete hard,” Nene said. “We don’t do what the coach ask us. And we don’t play together. So it is our mistake. I hope we remember this moment here and get better.”

Wittman praised Nene’s efforts, especially on the second night of a back-to-back.

“He’s been efficient,” Wittman said. “I don’t know how much more efficient he could be. In 24 minutes [he had] 20 points. He makes us good. Hopefully we can keep bumping those minutes up as we move forward here and we keep him healthy we can get him with the group that he needs to be with right from the start.”

But other than the play of Nene, Wittman didn’t have a lot of positives to offer.

“I don’t have an answer for why we haven’t learned our lesson,” Wittman said. “I told them if you play that way when you come out, I don’t care if you have eight bodies, seven bodies, whatever it is that we got. I don’t know and I guess it’s my job to find out.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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