Wizards set franchise mark for worst start with ninth straight loss

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Rally against Pacers falls short at Verizon Center

The boos briefly turned to cheers at Verizon Center. Yes, the Wizards made a game of it in the second half, but that couldn't prevent them from setting a new franchise mark for futility with a 96-89 loss to Indiana.

A year removed from an 0-8 start that had been the worst in team history, the Wizards fell to 0-9 while adding yet another game to the list of ones they believe they should have and could have won.

"These guys can win. I don't have any doubts of it," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "I come in here every day thinking this is the night. I feel good. I might be dumb, but I do. I believe in them. I really do."

After trailing by as many as 20 points in the third quarter, an inspired, bench-driven comeback climaxed with Chris Singleton (nine points, five rebounds) bringing the Wizards to within 86-85 with 3:30 remaining in the final period.

But David West (season-high 30 points) quieted the announced crowd of 14,426 with six of Indiana's next eight points while Washington again was deserted by its league-worst offense and finished the night shooting a dismal 35.6 percent.

With the Wizards trailing 69-49, Bradley Beal (team-high 18 points) bookended a 16-0 run with a pair of 3-pointers, and Shaun Livingston (10 points, four assists) hit a running bank shot to cut Indiana's lead to 71-67 at the end of three quarters.

But the execution was familiarly poor every time Washington got close. After Beal's third 3-pointer and Livingston's pull-up over West cut the Pacers' lead to three, the Wizards slept as Sam Young flew in for a tip-in to push the margin back to five. Singleton then couldn't finish on the break after his steal, and Kevin Seraphin (13 points) set an illegal screen to scuttle the next two possessions.

Two nights after their eighth straight loss to begin the season had ended with an arena full of boos, it didn't take long for disgruntled fans to make their presence known. The Pacers (5-7) had a 13-4 lead less than four minutes in.

Things got worse from there. At one end, George Hill (12 points) missed an uncontested 3-pointer, but an uncontested putback by Roy Hibbert (20 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) made it 17-6. At the other, Seraphin threw a pass off Beal's feet. Gerald Green made it 26-7 with another open look.

"We can't keep putting our team in a hole like that," said guard A.J. Price, part of a starting unit that shot 8-for-37. In contrast, Hibbert and West were a combined 18-for-24. "Coach comes in after and says he's trying to find eight or nine guys that's going to play hard for us every single night. For whatever reason, our first five is not getting it done."

While Beal missed his first four shots, D.J. Augustin's drive and Green's jumper pushed the Pacers' lead to 32-13. By early in the second quarter, Livingston had transformed into the Wizards' primary scoring option just four days after he was signed as a free agent.

Only when Earl Barron, the second to last player off the bench, slid out on Hill and Singleton hustled for a deflection and a lefty layup did Washington begin to show signs of life. Jordan Crawford (11 points) also went 7-for-7 at the line in the period, and Barron's banked-in 15-footer brought the Wizards as close as seven before they headed into halftime down 50-41.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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