for this game

Lowly Wizards keep Nets' miseries alive

Feb 21, 2009 - 5:50 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Not even a date with the worst team in the Eastern Conference could cure the New Jersey Nets' ills.

The Nets' plummet from the ranks of the playoff hopefuls continued on Friday night, as they were manhandled in the third quarter en route to a 107-96 home loss to the woeful Washington Wizards.

"We didn't play with a lot of energy," Nets All-Star guard Devin Harris said. "We got our butts kicked inside, rebounding, and giving up a lot of second-chance points. We just need everyone to hold their own and do what they do."

The loss was the team's fifth in a row, as postseason chances that once seemed so hopeful gradually fade out of focus. The Nets are still in the running, however - but then again, so is almost every other team in the conference. The lone exception is the Wizards - and even they proved to be too much.

"When you want something that bad, if you really, really want something that bad, then you dig in," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "I'm just doing a poor job because I'm not getting these guys to play and compete as hard as we need to."

It's been a rough time even outside the court, as ownership furiously shopped star guard Vince Carter and tried to acquire Suns forward Amare Stoudemire, striking out on both counts. Whether or not the off-the-court distractions have carried over to the hardwood is impossible to know - but the Nets certainly didn't respond well in their first test of the post-trade deadline stretch.

"It's a learning experience, we just have to understand how to react in certain situations, tonight's game was no different," Carter said. "Once again, it's a process and every step we take forward will help us gain experience and move forward."

As has been the case all too often this season, the third quarter proved to be the Nets' undoing. They trailed by just three at the half and even reversed things in the opening minutes of the second half, staging a 10-4 run to take a three-point edge. Harris capped the spurt with a 3-pointer and a drive to the bucket for an easy floater.

But the Wizards answered right back. They followed New Jersey's mini-surge with a 20-5 run to seize back control. Mike James and Caron Butler both completed three-point plays and Andray Blatche capped the spurt with a pair of short-range baskets to open up a 69-57 bulge en route to the Wizards' second straight win.

"It feels great," Blatche said. "We have to stay focused. We have a big game tomorrow against San Antonio so we'll try and make it three games in a row after the break. Keep pushing."

The rock for Washington was Antawn Jamison, who was also dangled at the deadline but wound up staying put. The Wizards certainly needed him in this one. The veteran forward poured in 28 points and 12 boards to lead the way, while James and Butler combined for 37 points.

"We've had our ups and down, not particularly playing well," Jamison said. "But we always seem, for the most part, to play at 100 percent and definitely not give up. We came out, did a great job as far as making things tough early on. Kept plugging away."

The Nets managed to make things interesting down the stretch, pulling to within five halfway through the fourth quarter thanks to a 15-5 run. Keyon Dooling's 3-pointer cut the team's deficit to just 85-80. But the Wizards clamped down from there, holding the Nets without a field goal for the next five minutes.

"Rebounding was the big deal for us," Washington interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "What it means is you get extra possessions on the offensive end and defensively you're not giving up extra possessions.

"With that team, as explosive as they can be offensively, we cannot give them extra possessions. A good rebounding job keeps them from having those extra possessions."

Harris carried the load for New Jersey, going for 26 points and 10 assists. Carter added 17 and seven but shot just 6-of-17 from the floor.

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