At first glance, the Wizards' 87-85 loss to the Net last night doesn't look so bad. On the road, against one of the top teams in the conference, Washington had a chance to win, but Gilbert Arenas failed to shake his defender for a game-winning shot. Statistically, the game could not have been much closer, as neither team shot well, but some notable points could prove worrisome for Wizards' fans as the season progresses.
First, the Wiz are now 0-4, and two of the losses have come in close games. Second, Agent Zero's recovery from knee surgery is obviously not complete. He is an astonishing 3-24 from three- point range and has gotten to the free throw line only 40 times in four games.
Third, the Wizards' bench should also be called Agent Zero for what it contributes. Darius Songaila threw his body around and grabbed a few rebounds last night, but he doesn't scare you on offense. Nor does Roger Mason, who jacks a couple threes to little effect. Andray Blatche still looks young and tentative on the floor while Antonio Daniels seems to have aged more than enough to compensate for him. Looking at last night's box score, the Nets bench gave them 28 points and 17 rebounds in 93 minutes while the Wizards got 17 and 13 in 70.
Defensively, the Wizards are giving up four fewer points per game than last year, but their team scoring average is down 14 points. In the fourth quarter last night, the Nets scored 30, mostly from Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter, but with several nice plays by (beating a dead horse here) NJ reserves Bostjan Nachbar and Antoine Wright.
So, what's the good news? Umm, let's see ... Caron Butler was 5-5 from the line, so he seems to be regaining his form there. Gilbert had his best three-point shooting night of the season (Yes, he was 2-7, but I'm trying here). Songaila's six rebounds were a season high. Solicitation charges were dropped against Blatche this week. Finally, the Wiz get Denver at home tonight. Expect a cautiously enthusiastic crowd, but it could get ugly if Washington doesn't come out on top.