Washington dropped their 13th straight road game of the season last night, as the Wizards fell 97-89 to the New Jersey Nets. Washington trailed by as many as 23 points but came back in the second half due to the defensive efforts of Kirk Hinrich and the sharp shooting of Gilbert Arenas. However, in the final few minutes, frustration — or a lack of focus — prevented the Wizards from achieving their first road win of the season.
Washington began last night with a lay-up by Trevor Booker, who sat in for Andray Blatche (knee). However, following Booker’s opening hoop, the Nets went on a 15-2 run. By halftime, the Wizards trailed 55-38.
Over the first half of play, no Wizard outside of Nick Young seemed capable of taking an outside shot. He led Washington with 15 points off the bench, 7 from the free throw line, while Al Thornton picked-up 10 points in a starting role opposite Booker in Washington’s frontcourt. The Nets were led by center Brook Lopez, who ate-up JaVale McGee and scored 12 points by halftime. Washington had no answer for Lopez, and could not find a way to stop New Jersey from driving to the basket. At the half, the Nets led the Wizards 30-16 in points in the paint.
While it looked as if the Wizards would continue to collapse without the tempo of John Wall (knee), Washington’s veteran backcourt of Hinrich and Arenas slowly took control in the third quarter. Hinrich’s defense led the way, while Arenas, who suffered 1-for-8 from the field over the first half, found his range. With 17 points between them in the third quarter, the duo cut a 17-point halftime deficit down to single digits.
Washington continued to push the action in the fourth, and with 9:10 left to play the score was 75-all following a bucket by Al Thornton. However, down 86-85 with a little more than two minutes to go, Arenas, frustrated, was called for a technical foul. Gil had been called for an offensive charge moments prior, which happened to be a subject for debate. The Nets missed the technical free throw, but the Wizards allowed Lopez a floating jumper.
The Wizards had one last chance to make a defensive stand. Down 90-87 with 34.9 seconds left in the game, the Nets pushed the ball through point guard Devin Harris. Washington could defend Harris, and stop New Jersey, with a chance to tie or cut the deficit to one. However, Arenas, who had five fouls, committed his sixth by holding Harris as he pushed forward. Now comes the debate — was Arenas frustrated by that technical call, wrapping his arm around Harris as if to say “I give up,” or did Gil forget he had 5 personal fouls? Either way, Harris sank both his free throws, and the Wizards were unable to recover thereafter.
Arenas has no free throw attempts in his last three games. He began last night’s game by deferring, and it wasn’t until the third quarter that Arenas stepped in from the three point line and really looked to drive inside. Washington will need to play with more aggression Saturday night when they host the Miami Heat.