The Washington Wizards lost their fifth game in a row following their 14 point loss to Miami on Tuesday night. What's worse is that they lost Randy Foye midway through the second quarter, and DeShawn Stevenson proved once again that his best asset is keeping the bench warm. In case you don't agree with that second statement, how does 81 points in two games from one player (Dwayne Wade) sound? He is more responsible for Tuesday's debacle because he played 40 minutes, as opposed to the 23 he played in the first meeting. If it isn't Stevenson disproving his worth, it is the players that deserve ample playing time getting hurt. Foye went out in the second quarter against the Heat, and did not return. No word on his status has been released, but even little injuries are more than the Wizards can afford right now. With Antawn Jamison's season debut on hold, Mike Miller nursing a strained shoulder, Caron Butler playing with a bruised knee, Mike James breaking his finger, Javaris Crittenton recovering from surgery and Gilbert Arenas suffering through a strained calf the Wizards are running thin in all the wrong positions.
Coach Flip Saunders came into the season with a wealth of talent in his starters and reliable bench players. Now he is forced to thrust those bench players into bigger roles than they are equipped to handle. Luckily, there is plenty of experience on the bench that no one is overwhelmed, but what little experience there is hasn't been enough to sustain the Wizards' efforts in games. Injuries aside, the Wizards have flat out disappointed in every game outside of their lone wins against Dallas and New Jersey. They blew and 18 point lead against the Cavs and went on to lose by 12. They blew an 11 point against Miami on Tuesday and lost by 14, not to mention scoring just 27 points in the second half. The 27 points the Wizards scored in the second half against Miami matched their first quarter production. That is awful by any standards, let alone the standards of a team who was supposedly the most improved.
The Wizards' woes come down to more than just injuries. There are great efforts by individuals being nullified by the poor efforts of others. Brendan Haywood has been playing like a man possessed lately. On the season, Haywood is averaging 11.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Those totals have him in the top ten among centers in the NBA for points, blocks and rebounds. Haywood's play in the last three games shows a fire that was missing from the Wizards last season when he went down for the season with an injury. Haywood has averaged 10.7 points, 13.3 rebounds and 4.3 rebounds over the Wizards' last three games. Those stats don't account for the veteran plays he made in those games of tipping balls out to the perimeter players and giving the Wizards second chance opportunities on offense. In contrast to Haywood's play, Arenas' play has been lacking. It may be harsh to jump on his back given the dedication and hard work he has put in to get back on the floor for the Wizards, but lately he has been hurting more than helping.
Early in the season, Arenas showed a less selfish style of play while maintaining a healthy scoring average. In the games along the current skid the Wizards are on, he has been selfish and unwise in his play. Over the same three games that Haywood has played great, Arenas has shot 37 percent from the floor and 59 percent from the free throw line. In the last three games, Arenas has scored a total of 54 points, which equals his total from the two games prior. In Tuesday's game against Miami, Arenas accounted for 12 turnovers, which is equal to his previous four games combined.
There is something wrong with the Wizards and it is something that mere injuries cannot defend or account for. The season is young, but that doesn't mean the Wizards are guaranteed to shake off the rust and go on a tear when their injured players return. If they can't compete when their backs are against the wall, there is little hope they will win when they have all of their heavy hitters on the floor.