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Wizards' defense finally gives way

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

It had been a measure of consolation in recent weeks for the struggling Wizards that they had kept an increasing consecutive tally of opponents from scoring 100 points or more.

With two of their defensive mainstays both missing their second straight game, that streak came to an end at nine with Monday's 112-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Jordan Crawford led all scorers with 23 points, but it was Washington's most lopsided home defeat since the last time Monta Ellis had been in the building to help Golden State to a 20-point blowout. Playing his 10th game with the Bucks (25-28), Ellis had 17 points, but the biggest failure for the Wizards (12-41) was their inability to stop Brandon Jennings, who scored 17 of his 19 points in the third quarter.

"I think we just didn't have the bounce in our legs tonight that I've seen," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.

Far more urgency lay with the visitors, who began the night 21?2 games out of the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, while Washington seemed to be driven by the need to finish the game in time for John Wall (14 points, nine assists, six rebounds) to watch his alma mater, Kentucky, in the NCAA championship game.

But the task on court was made tougher with Nene and Trevor Booker both missing a second consecutive game with plantar fasciitis in their left feet, forcing Wittman to utilize the youngest starting lineup in franchise history for the second straight night. With rookies Jan Vesely (career-high 14 points, seven rebounds) and Chris Singleton alongside Wall, Crawford and Kevin Seraphin (15 points), Washington had just three years' experience on the floor.

And focus was lost when Wall went to the bench with a little more than five minutes remaining in the first quarter. After Singleton (four points, four rebounds) missed badly on a 3-pointer, Shelvin Mack (three turnovers) lost the handle and gave up an easy fast break. Vesely then sent a short pass off Mack out of bounds, and Singleton unintentionally dribbled out the clock at the end of the period.

The Bucks had reeled off a 17-2 run and owned a 30-19 lead by the time Vesely also got the Wizards' first points of the second quarter at the line.

Wall's four free throws and a drawn charge on Luc Mbah a Moute were part of an 8-0 run that pulled Washington within 55-53 just after halftime. The Bucks answered with six points from Jennings during a 10-0 stretch that was shortly followed by an 8-2 run. Jennings ran by Crawford and missed a runner but put back his own rebound to put Milwaukee ahead 77-63. The Wizards never recovered despite 11 points in the fourth quarter from Roger Mason Jr.

"Try to win," Wall said when asked what the Wizards hope to get out of their final 13 games. "You don't have an excuse by saying everybody is injured. You've got to play with what you've got. Guys have to step up, and we just didn't play well tonight. They outplayed us."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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