Wednesday, December 1, 2010 9:42 p.m.
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By Dave Johnson
CSNwashington.comToronto---Help finally arrived for the Wizards, but it didn't matter. John Wall and Al Thornton returned from injuries, but their improved health was a drop of good news in an ocean of misery as the Wizards failed to compete in a 127-108 loss to the Raptors.
"It was an embarrassing effort," Wizards head coach Flip Saunders emphasized. "There are always ways you can make excuses. We have been on the road playing every other day in different cities but that's what this league is all about."
The loss was also record setting. With the defeat, the Wizards are now 0-9 on the road eclipsing the team record for consecutive road losses at the start of a season. The previous record of eight was set by the 20062007 Wizards who recovered and actually were the best team in the Eastern Conference before the All-Star Break.
That was then and this is now and the Wizards need to be more consistent on defense. In a previous meeting against the Raptors at Verizon Center, the Wizards won by 15 points. In Toronto the Raptors scored at will and shot 58 from the field for the game including 62 points in the paint.
DeMar DeRozan led six Raptors in double figures with 20 points. Andrea Bargnani was a determining force early when he scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half. Bargnani also had 8 rebounds to help the Raptors dominate the boards 52-30.
"When you get out rebounded by twenty some rebounds and give up sixty-some points in the paint, that's just effort, Saunders noted. "That's just not digging in and fighting. Basically our guards got broken down on the perimeter and our bigs did not protect the rim. At that point it became Katie bar the door."
Indeed the Raptors sliced through the Wizards. At the top of Saunders chalk board in the locker room was the importance of transition defense. Yet in the first quarter the Raptors had an amazing 17-4 advantage in fast break points.
The Raptors ability to get out on the break served as launching pad to break open the game. With 4:05 left in the first quarter the score was tied at 21 when the Raptors exploded on a 26-8 run. The Raptors run was characterized by an array of dunks, driving layups and mid-range jump shots. The Raptors did not attempt one three point shot during that pivotal stretch.
The Wizards offensive numbers masked a poor game. As a team they shot 45 from the field and had 22 assists on 38 made field goals with only 11 turnovers. JaVale McGee added to his collection of crowd-stunning slam dunks and led the Wizards with 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the field.
After missing six of the last seven games with foot and knee injuries, Wall came off the bench to score 19 points and though he had understandable timing issues in the first half, he still finished with 8 assists.
"I am just disappointed in our defensive effort," Saunders said. "You can't rely on if you make shots you play defense. It has to be the other way. We have to bounce back and find guys who will go out and compete, play hard, and play defense against Portland."