The Washington Wizards started their three-game western road trip on Dec. 5 with a clash against Phoenix and concluded it with a battle against Sacramento before returning home to the Verizon Center with a Dec. 10 date with the New York Knicks.

The Wizards’ visit to Phoenix started out well, with the team posting 60 points in the first half. Washington held a 10-point lead before the Suns, led by all-star point guard Steve Nash, battled back to clip the Wizards in a 125-108 victory.

A 17-point third quarter doomed the Wizards as Phoenix scored 61 second-half points and shot a scorching 58 percent from the field. Nash scored 20 points and added 17 assists as the Suns’ offense was in cruise control for much of the night. Three Washington players scored in double figures as swingman Nick Young scored 20 points off the bench, continuing his candidacy for Sixth Man of the Year. Rookie point guard John Wall didn’t shoot well, continuing his own season-long struggles, but he added 12 assists to go with his 12 points.

Clearly outmatched in their Dec. 7 game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Wizards kept it as close as they could for much of the night before eventually succumbing in a 115-108 loss. Gilbert Arenas received a starting nod at guard and didn’t disappoint, scoring 23 points, but even Arenas had to take a backseat to the duo of Young and Wall.

Young, the former USC Trojan, racked up 30 points and nailed six three-pointers to go along with three steals. Young typically plays well against the Lakers, but may have had his best performance as a pro against last season’s champions. Wall was also at his best, posting 22 points, 14 assists, five rebounds and three blocks in the defeat.

Wall’s explosion against the Lakers may have led to the rookie missing the following night against Sacramento with a sore left foot. Kirk Hinrich got the start in Wall’s place and provided the Wizards with an efficient performance with 18 points, four steals and three assists. But it wasn’t enough to save Washington from another loss as they fell 116-91 to the Kings. It was the third-straight game in which Washington allowed 115 or more points, and tired legs and a lack of energy was evident as the lowly Kings dominated the Wizards in rebounding, 48-36, and nearly tripled the team in assists, 27-11.

A matchup at the Verizon Center against the hot New York Knicks on Dec. 10 didn’t provide much relief. Winners of six straight heading into the game, the Knicks held Washington to 41 points in the second half and held off a late charge by the home team to win 101-95. Young added 17 points off the bench and Arenas led the team with 20, but members of the hostile crowd began to take their frustrations out on the team, sarcastically cheering for the Knicks as the Wizards season continued to unwind. Locals chanted MVP for Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who lit up the Wizards for 36 points and 11 rebounds.

With the loss, Washington dropped its fourth consecutive game and lost for the eighth time in their last nine games. The Wizards are now 6-16 this season and currently in last place in the Southeast Division. Things don’t get any easier for Washington, who will return home for a Dec. 14 rematch against the Lakers.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO