Pacers 102, Wizards 86
Simple question: What happened out there?
Andray Blatche buttoned his shirt, pondered his answer, but the words couldn't come out. He threw on his black bubble-vest coat, still struggling to explain the most troubling loss of the season for a Washington Wizards team that entered this season with high expectations.
"I don't know. I swear I don't know what to say after that one," Blatche said. "Tough one. This whole game, I'm just speechless. I can't say nothing about this game."
Blatche was probably spooked by the Wrath of Tawn. Antawn Jamison isn't expected to be back in uniform for another week or so because of his sprained right shoulder, but that doesn't mean that he isn't passionate about the direction of his team. So, after watching his teammates lose their third in a row -- an embarrassing blowout to a struggling team that entered the game with just one win -- he couldn't sit back and let them leave Indianapolis without giving them a piece of his mind.
Trust me, the audio could never be replayed in front of children.
In a loud, profanity-laced tirade, Jamison lit into his teammates, cursing them for what he considered a lethargic effort. No one was spared, and when reporters were allowed to enter the locker room, it was obvious that nothing, not even the fruit tray, was spared. It had been tossed into a corner, shattered to pieces, with fruit and candy scattered everywhere.
The Wizards gave a truly pathetic performance on Friday night and never seemed like they wanted to compete. Brendan Haywood was active, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds. Caron Butler was also aggressive, though not especially effective, as he had 24 points and 12 rebounds. Randy Foye had some moments, providing 16 points off the bench. But the entire effort of the team was disjointed and left everyone, from players to coaches, frustrated and upset.
"I'm disappointed," Coach Flip Saunders said. "I thought our effort was poor. You have to play hard and play with intelligence. I didn't think those guys did those two things."
Arenas was extremely passive against the Pacers, never taking time to try and have an influence on the outcome. He scored just two points in the second half, taking four shots. It would be one thing if Arenas was in play-making mode, trying to set up his teammates and collecting assists. But he only finished with four assists. In the Wizards two wins, he's averaging eight assists.
And, as evidence of his lack of aggression, Arenas attempted just four free throws. I know former Georgetown center Roy Hibbert had five blocked shots, but that has never kept Arenas from attacking the hole before. After the game, he explained that he was trying to get his teammates more involved after taking 27 shots two nights before against Miami. Arenas is still struggling to find that middle crowd. It often seems to be extremes with him.
He credited the Pacers, who definitely played as a team, even if they didn't always play well. They shot just 40 percent from the floor and had just four more rebounds, but they hustled for more loose balls and were the more aggressive team from start to finish.
"They just outworked us today," Arenas said. "We're not getting five guys to play hard out there. You got the whole team playing hard, they can beat anybody no matter what kind of talent they have on that team. We just couldn't get it together."
Blatche was speechless after the game, but he didn't say much with his play on the court, either. Blatche shot 0-for-5 and had one point with three rebounds against Indiana. With Jamison out, the Wizards need Blatche to play at a high level, but hasn't been able to provide that boost since scoring a career-high 30 points against New Jersey on Saturday. In the past three games, he's scored just 18 points combined. The Wizards are 2-0 when he scores at least 20 this year, but it's not fair to expect that sort of production from him. But the Wizards need something.
Before the game, Saunders described the Pacers as so disorganized that they are organized, in how they get up a lot of shots and catch teams off guard with their free-wheeling offense. The Pacers aren't exactly noted for their defense, but the Wizards shot just 39.3 percent from the floor. It was the second consecutive game that they shot below 40 percent after shooting 37.8 percent against Miami.
"It was a tough one to swallow," Foye said. "I feel as though we should've beaten that team. I feel as though we're the better team, but we let them come out and jump on us early. And we can't have that. We have to take pride in our defense."
The Wizards didn't play defense poorly, but they could never make a run because they spent so much of the night chasing down the Pacers, who converted their 19 turnovers into 22 points. They outscored the Wizards in fastbreak points 23-6.
Saunders kept searching for something to provide a spark and he all of his active players, with Mike James making his season debut. Ten seconds after James checked in, he delivered a pass to Dominic McGuire that McGuire fumbled out of bounds. Shortly thereafter, Butler tried to find Arenas at the top of the three-point line, but Pacers guard T.J. Ford batted the ball over Arenas's head, chased down the ball and laid it in with two hands to push the lead back up to 47-33.
Nick Young and Paul Davis were the only two players who didn't commit a turnover on Friday. It was the third consecutive game in which the Wizards had more turnovers than assists. It's easy to lose three in a row that way.
"If we keep playing like this," Arenas said, "we're going to keep getting our [butts] whipped."
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