Wizards show no focus, `D' in loss to Utah

Jazz enjoys 40 assists, 60 percent shooting, 118-98

Pro Basketball

March 05, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Through the first 59 games, Washington Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton has done the best he can to put as positive a spin as possible on what has been a dreadful season.

But even Hamilton couldn't put a smiley face on the putrid effort the Wizards produced in yesterday's 118-98 drubbing by the Utah Jazz before an announced crowd of 17,427 at MCI Center.

"I can honestly say that we allowed our circumstances to affect us more than any other time," Hamilton said. "Fortunately for us, whenever we've had what I considered a low moment, we've always found a way to bounce back.

"I hope this will be the last low moment that we'll have this year. I'm always one to look for positive things to point out. [Yesterday] was one of those days where we just couldn't find very much positive to point out."

Granted, the Jazz (40-18), which leads the Western Conference, came in a bit angrier than normal, having dropped a close decision in Boston on Friday night -- its first loss there in 10 games -- but that couldn't explain away a near total absence of defense from the Wizards (13-47).

Utah shot 60 percent from the field on a collection of open jumpers and dunks. Five Jazz players scored in double figures, led by Karl Malone, who had 20 points, and Donyell Marshall and John Starks, who had 19 apiece, all in fewer than 28 minutes.

"I think you have to come and play and take care of business yourself," Malone said. "I think in the first half we did that. We had 40 assists, so we moved the ball around well. Whenever you do that, you want to have an opportunity to win."

The Jazz led by 20 midway through the second quarter and was never threatened. Utah dished out 40 assists, meaning all but nine of its 49 baskets were assisted. John Stockton had 12 assists, and his backup, Jacque Vaughn, had 11.

"I realize that Utah is a very good basketball team, but there's no excuse for the lack of concentration that we displayed," Hamilton said. "... To allow a team to shoot 59 percent obviously speaks for itself from a defensive standpoint. They executed so well that they got 40 assists and we had 19. That's virtually unheard of."

Said Washington center Jahidi White: "We just kind of backed down defensively. As a team, we didn't go after it defensively, almost to the point of giving up. There's just no way a team can do that."

While five Washington players scored in double figures, led by Mitch Richmond's 22 points and the first 11 points of rookie Mike Smith's career, most of the offense came in garbage time.

Things got bad for Washington almost from the start, as point guard Chris Whitney severely sprained his already ailing left ankle and left the game early in the first quarter. Shooting guard Richard Hamilton was ejected with three minutes to go in the first period.

The Wizards have made a number of moves toward improving their future, but in the meantime, there are 22 games left.

"You can't focus on a couple of years from now," White said. "What's happening now is what's happening now, and what's happening now is kind of miserable."

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