Though winless through their initial five games this season, at least the Wizards could lay claim to being competitive in each game. That is no longer the case.
Disastrous offensively in the second quarter against a Bobcats squad that no longer resembles last season's historically awful team, Washington trailed by double digits by halftime and never recovered, falling 92-76 loss at Charlotte on Tuesday night. The Wizards' record stands at 0-6 for the second straight season.
Washington jumped out to a 7-0 lead, maintained a five-point cushion at different times in the first quarter on the strength of Trevor Ariza's two 3-pointers and 12 points, and led 27-23 after one. It was downhill from there, especially in the shooting department.
The Wizards finished a dreadful 5 of 31 (16.1 percent) from beyond the arc, including a stretch of 13 consecutive misses, and 29.8 percent (25 of 84) overall. Subtract the opening 12 minutes and if possible the accuracy numbers look even worse; after making 11 baskets in the first quarter, Washington finished 14 of 58 (24.1 percent) overall and 1 of 20 on 3-pointers over the final three quarters.
Down 52-39 at halftime and despite all that missing, Washington somehow found itself only down by nine points after the third quarter and 74-67 with 10:33 remaining following two Martell Webster free throws. It took nearly five minutes for the Wizards to score again, allowing the Bobcats (3-3) to extend the lead and eventually push the margin to a whopping 21 points.
In four games last season against Charlotte - all wins - Washington never trailed by more than six points in any of them. During two meetings they never trailed at all.
Charlotte's energetic rookie forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, selected one pick ahead of Beal in the 2012 draft, set the tone with 12 of his 15 points coming before halftime. Ramon Sessions scored 21 points and ex-Wizard Brendan Haywood grabbed 11 rebounds and scored eight points as the Bobcats won their second straight game. Last season Charlotte won seven games, none consecutive and set the NBA record for lowest winning percentage in a season.
Ariza, who has struggled offensively since joining Washington, scored 19 points. He was also the only Wizard to reach double figures. Trevor Booker, Emeka Okafor and Bradley Beal each scored eight points. The starting backcourt of Beal and A.J. Price shot a combined 3 of 23 and missed 11 of 13 three-point attempts.
Whatever flow the Wizards had early disappeared into the Charlotte night by the second quarter. Washington missed 12 of 15 shots, including all seven from beyond the arc, committed five turnovers and was outrebounded 17-7. Kidd-Gilchrist's non-stop hustle and rim-attacking plays fueled the Bobcats' offense. Charlotte closed the half on a 12-2 run for a 52-39 lead.
Even a positive note like the Wizards reaching the free throw line 32 times after taking only seven attempts in Saturday's loss at Indiana is undone by the team only making 21 of their opportunities. Charlotte shot less than 40 percent from the field, but committed only 12 turnovers, outscored Washington 46-24 in the paint and made 27 of 32 (84.4 percent) from the foul line.
The Bobcats played the game without perimeter threat Ben Gordon, who left before the game due to a family situation, and last season's leading scorer Gerald Henderson, out with a foot injury. Meanwhile only the 0-8 Pistons currently have a worse record then the Wizards, who started the 2011-12 season with eight straight losses.
Before tonight, the perception of this season's team - at least by those who only look at the overall record - is simply more of the same. Not true. There are no moral victories in pro sports, but these Wizards had chances to win virtually each of the previous five games even without stars John Wall and Nene. By most measures, this roster is improved, the attitude for sure, but short-handed is short-handed.
On this night, unlike the Wizards shooting, that perception is spot on.
Washington looks to avoid falling to 0-7 Wednesday night in Dallas.