Short-handed Wizards go into all-star break with a whimper
The concern for the Wizards entering their last game before the all-star break was not necessarily if they would be able to defeat the Orlando Magic; it really was if they were going to have enough offense to keep the game respectable.
For a team already deficient in talent, it was not good to enter the game with Nick Young and its best Magic spy, Rashard Lewis, sidelined with knee injuries. And it didn't get any better for the Wizards when Al Thornton returned after missing the past three games with a dislocated right middle finger, only to dislocate his right middle finger in a collision with Dwight Howard after playing just three minutes.
The Wizards' 101-76 loss got off to an ominous start when Andray Blatche backed down Magic power forward Brandon Bass, spun around him and airballed a dunk attempt, collecting the first of four turnovers when he caught the ball on the other side of the basket.
John Wall did his best to fill the offensive void, as he ripped through the Magic defense early on, playing with tenacity and pep, as he scored 27 points -- the most since he had a season-high 29 against Philadelphia on Nov. 2. Wall got to rim with ease, but he also seemed comfortable hitting open jumpers, with the Magic almost daring him to shoot at times.
Kirk Hinrich came off the bench and had a nice little scoring burst in the second quarter, when he scored 10 points, but the Wizards weren't going to seriously challenge the Magic with Josh Howard going 1 for 10, Cartier Martin going 2 for 13, Blatche going 6 for 17 and JaVale McGee going 1 for 6. Add that up, and the Wizards starters not named Wall went a combined 10 for 46 (21.7 percent).
"It was sort of John Wall all by himself," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said of the Wizards.
The Wizards played one competitive game against the Magic, and the only thing that they can really look forward to is that maybe someday down the road, Wall will take note of the beatdowns he had to take as a rookie and take it out on the rest of the league. Howard certainly appears to be doing that now, since he is playing at a frighteningly dominant level. He's showing that a supporting cast is almost irrelevant, because he can make up for holes in his teammates' games.
Howard scored 32 points on 15 shots. He put all of the Wizards' big men in foul trouble early and, didn't have to play in the fourth quarter. He didn't do push-ups along the sideline, as he did in the season opener, but the Magic seemed to be having a good time as they recorded their third win by at least 18 points against the Wizards this season.
"We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game," Wall said. "We knew it was going to be tough."
The Wizards knew before the game that Young was probably going to sit out after developing some swelling from a bruise in his left knee after the win in Cleveland. But there were concerns about McGee, who arrived at Amway Center complaining of soreness in his lower back.
"One guy's got Howarditis. I guess the other guy's got Gilbertitis," Saunders joked before the game about McGee and Young.
McGee said his back was fine once he hit the court, but he was already sitting less than three minutes into the game after picking up two quick fouls.
Young got roughed up the last time the Wizards faced the Magic, especially with Gilbert Arenas using some old dirty tricks, but he said after the game that he was really disappointed that he couldn't play one more game before the break. "It was tough just watching them out there. I knew that they needed me," Young said after the game. "It hurt. Especially how the other team was laughing, trying to take full advantage."
Blatche seated nearby said, "It's tough out there without Batman."
Lewis got a really nice ovation from the Magic, which played a little video montage with a voice over describing some of his better moments in more than three years in Orlando. After watching it, I wondered why the Wizards didn't do a similar deed for Arenas or Antawn Jamison when they returned to Washington earlier this season. Then again, the Wizards only have one second round appearance to show for the Arenas-Jamison era, while Lewis helped the Magic reach the NBA Finals and the Eastern Conference finals twice.
It had to be hard for Lewis to walk through the arena since his image is still plastered all over the place, in banners and pictures hanging along the halls. It was obvious that Lewis's former teammates still think highly of him. He embraced several of them after the game, including Jameer Nelson. Hedo Turkoglu needled Lewis throughout the game, at one point, ignoring a referee during a break in action in the fourth quarter to throw a pass to a seated Lewis instead.
"Me and Turk was messing around," Lewis said. "I think he made a jump shot and looked at me and started smiling. The very next play, he got dunked on by JaVale. He didn't want to look at me then."
Arenas didn't score until late in the fourth quarter, but he handed out six assists and got to leave the floor with a victory. The Wizards came away with a simple goal for the all-star break.
"Get guys healthy," Saunders said.
| February 17, 2011; 12:56 AM ET
Categories: Flip Saunders, Gilbert Arenas, JaVale McGee, John Wall, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis
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