At expense of Wizards, Magic cashes in, 95-91

Lowly Orlando earns just its third win of season

Pro Basketball

December 11, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The MCI Center became a theater of the absurd last night, what with injured players getting ejected, the winning team shooting 39 percent from the field and the Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards missing only two of 45 free throws between them.

In the end, the most bizarre thing to happen here was the worst for the Wizards: a 95-91 loss to the Magic, a team just one game removed from ending a 19-game losing streak.

The Wizards (7-14), playing their first home game in 10 days, disappointed a crowd of 14,911 with absent-minded play, committing 20 turnovers and squandering double doubles from both Kwame Brown and Etan Thomas, not to mention 15 points from Juan Dixon.

"We lost the game when we made too many mistakes, whether it's [that] we can't convert a break, or no one boxes out or we gamble on defense or every so often there's a breakdown on the execution of the offense," said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan.

Jordan watched helplessly as the Wizards frittered away an imminently winnable game, booting the ball around or giving the Magic (3-19) key second shots in crucial situations.

"We turned the ball over. That's what we did. They kept going up by six, because we turned the ball over," said Washington's Larry Hughes.

As an example, Hughes, who had 19 points, but shot a dismal 6-for-22 from the field, was the culprit at the end of the third quarter, when, in the middle of a 3-on-1 break, he was called for a charge, with a wide-open Brown on his right.

On the ensuing defensive possession, the Wizards had a foul to give, but Hughes fouled Gordan Giricek in the act of shooting. Giricek hit both free throws, and the Magic had a six-point lead at the end of the period.

"You can live with missed open shots," said Jordan. "At least you know you executed to get open shots. That's what you strive for. But when you come down on a 3-on-1, you have to convert. When you come out of the huddle and the coaches say don't gamble on certain players, and you gamble ... it hurts. Those are mistakes you can't live with."

The Wizards played less than smart all night, beginning in the first quarter when guard Gilbert Arenas, who remains on the injured list with a severe abdominal strain, was ejected near the end of the quarter for arguing with official Bernie Fryer.

Arenas, who was wearing a headband and was dressed in a Wizards road jersey and shorts, has been on the injured list since Nov. 25.

"He's in it," said Jordan. "He's passionate. He's young. He was in it and you can't fault him for that. It was a mistake, but I thought the official had a quick whistle on the second one, but that's what we have to get better at."

With all their errors, the Wizards still had a chance to win in the fourth, trailing 93-91 off a three-pointer from Steve Blake with 2:39 to go, but they did not score the rest of the way.

"We were careless with the ball in the fourth quarter," said Dixon. "We had stretches where we could have executed."

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Minnesota Timberwolves

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WTEM (980 AM)

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