The Washington Wizards sandwiched a home victory between two road losses in the first week of the New Year, dropping their overall record to 9-26. The two additional road defeats drove Washington’s road losing streak to 18 games, the longest in the NBA.

It’s clear that the Wizards are destined for another last-place finish in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, leaving head coach Flip Saunders and the team’s fans no choice but to look for bright spots as Washington’s season continues to spiral. Although the Wizards suffered through another week of losing, there were signs of life sprinkled throughout.

Washington hit the road to face the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 5. The Wizards looked ready to end their road losing streak until Philadelphia used a 33-22 final quarter to topple Wizards, 109-97. Getting back into the swing of things, rookie point guard John Wall finished with 18 points and 14 assists and guard Nick Young scored a team-high 21 points.

After playing a series of games where Washington held their opponents under 100 points, the defensive energy wasn’t there as Philadelphia’s backcourt guards Lou Williams and Jrue Holliday combined for 52 points and 12 assists.

With revenge fresh on their minds, Washington jumped out to a 30-13 first quarter lead in the week’s lone victory against the New Jersey Nets on Jan 7. The Wizards saw five players score in double figures and Wall dished out nine assists as Washington cruised to a 97-77 win. Newly acquired forward Rashard Lewis had his most complete game as a Wizard, collecting 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Washington had erased a 23-point deficit against the Nets on Dec. 16 but fell short in a 97-89 loss.

Despite a strong defensive effort in the previous game, it all fell apart again for the Wizards in their 104-89 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Jan. 8. Washington stormed back from a 12-point second-half deficit but allowed Charlotte to recapture the momentum with an 11-0 run to give them a solid cushion.

It was a homecoming for Wall. who finished with 16 points and 11 assists. The North Carolina native rose to stardom as a Raleigh, N.C. schoolboy, and his mother and close relatives were in attendance cheering him throughout. It was a good thing his family came, because the rookie must have felt alone for much of the night as his four other starting teammates combined for just 29 points.

The Wizards will return to action on Jan. 11 with a home game against the Sacramento Kings.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO