PHOENIX - If the Washington Wizards intended last night's game against the Phoenix Suns to be a statement about their intentions for this six-game Western trip, as well as about their push for the playoffs, then they failed miserably.
Washington never overcame a 17-0 first-quarter run by the Suns, who like the Wizards are in a desperate race to make the playoffs. Phoenix punished the visitors inside and out on the way to a 109-83 win at America West Arena.
"From that point [the 17-0 run] on, we didn't even compete," said Michael Jordan, whose 14 points led the Wizards. "They made a push at us and we just wilted. From that point on, it wasn't a game. It was like we were in uniform and they were doing anything they wanted against us. It was very, very embarrassing, and I can't believe we got paid for tonight."
The Wizards (32-36) never seemed to show up defensively as Phoenix scored nearly at will, either connecting on the fast break, hitting three-pointers or finding seams in Washington's porous interior for easy baskets.
The Suns, who shot 55 percent from the field, dominated the Wizards in virtually all important statistical categories, outscoring them 60-16 in the lane, outrebounding them 46-32 and gaining an 8-3 advantage in three-pointers, each one accompanied by a sound effect of an exploding bomb, an interesting choice given that the nation is at war.
Phoenix point guard Stephon Marbury, who has virtually owned the Wizards over his seven-year career, torched Washington again to the tune of 23 points and six assists, while forward Shawn Marion had 18 points and reserve guard Joe Johnson posted 19 points.
The Wizards, who fell to four games under .500 for the first time since they were 13-17 on Dec. 30, blew a golden opportunity to move back into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as the Milwaukee Bucks were drubbed by the New Orleans Hornets, 113-98.
As a result, the Bucks, who have 13 games left, continue to hold a half-game lead over Washington, as well as the tiebreaker edge, with 14 games remaining for the Wizards.
The Wizards lost their 13th game in their past 14 trips to Phoenix as every player who entered the game for both teams scored.
Jordan, in his final Phoenix appearance, was greeted warmly by the crowd, no doubt recalling his performance in the 1993 NBA Finals, when his Bulls defeated Phoenix in six games to win Chicago's third straight title.
Jordan, who left the game early in the fourth quarter, was, like most of the rest of the Wizards, ineffective. Jerry Stackhouse, Washington's leading scorer, had a game-high nine assists but scored only seven points, on 3-for-10 shooting.
"They rocked us a little bit and put us on our heels," said Stackhouse. "They just jumped a game on us. We felt they were going to do that, but we weren't ready for it."
Said Bryon Russell: "We need to look within ourselves and find out what we need to do. We need to compete harder. We all missed shots, but it was like we didn't compete. We laid an egg.
"It's the first game of the road trip. We got the bad one out of the way, so let's play better from here on out."
The Wizards, who are 1-8 on the road against the Western Conference, were opening a six-game swing through the Mountain and Pacific time zones, also making stops at Golden State, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles (Lakers) and Denver before it ends on March 31.
Percentages: FG .405, FT .696. 3-point goals: 3-13, .231 (Russell 1-2, Hughes 1-3, Lue 1-5, Jordan 0-1, Stackhouse 0-2). Team rebounds: 10. Team Turnovers: 14 (20 PTS). Blocked shots: 4 (K.Brown, Haywood, Jordan, Russell). Turnovers: 14 (Hughes 4, Stackhouse 4, Jordan 2, Lue, Laettner, K.Brown, Russell). Steals: 11 (Hughes 5, Laettner 2, White, Lue, Haywood, Jordan). Technical fouls: None. FGFTReb
Percentages: FG .548, FT .750. 3-point goals: 8-14, .571 (Marion 4-4, J.Johnson 3-3, Marbury 1-5, Langhi 0-1, Stoudemire 0-1). Team rebounds: 7. Team Turnovers: 17 (17 PTS). Blocked shots: 8 (Stoudemire 3, Voskuhl 2, Outlaw, Gugliotta, Marbury). Turnovers: 17 (Marbury 4, Hardaway 4, Outlaw 3, Stoudemire 3, Gugliotta, Voskuhl, J.Johnson). Steals: 12 (Marbury 4, Outlaw 3, Marion 2, Voskuhl, J.Johnson, Stoudemire). Technical fouls: None. Washington15192326-83
A-19,023 (19,023). T-2:11. Officials-Steve Javie, Jess Kersey, Tim Donaghy.