Wizards 83, Trail Blazers 79
Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan's manner was calm, his voice steady.
He sounded more resigned than riled up after his club's sixth consecutive setback, an 83-79 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday night, when the Trail Blazers made a season-worst 33.3 percent of their shots and were held to 10 points in the third quarter.
''Evidently, they're not responding to me, because all these games look similar. We have a pretty decent first half, and in the second half, we struggle to score, to get stops,'' McMillan said. ''I've said that the last five, six games. I asked them, 'Is it clear? What we're asking you to do?' They didn't say anything. They don't have to say anything. The games show that we're not getting it done.''
On a night that No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall struggled in his return to Washington's starting lineup - 3-for-13 shooting, 10 points, career-low two assists, four turnovers - and Gilbert Arenas moved into a reserve role at his own suggestion, the Wizards turned in their best defensive performance of the season.
In their previous game, the Wizards allowed a season-high 127 points in a loss Wednesday at Toronto, an effort coach Flip Saunders called ''embarrassing'' and ''just very disappointing.''
''Go figure: Give up 131 two days ago, and give up 79 today,'' Saunders said Friday, only slightly embellishing how bad his team was against the Raptors. ''All we did yesterday was work on defense. Our offense kind of showed it. If you want to be good in this league, you're going to have to learn how to play defense, so right now, that's our point of emphasis.''
After shooting 5 for 21 in the third quarter - 24 percent - Portland went through a fourth-quarter drought of more than 6 1/2 minutes without a field goal until LaMarcus Aldridge's tip-in with less than 1 1/2 minutes remaining in the game.
So while the Blazers led 46-34 at halftime, they trailed 57-56 entering the fourth quarter and faded.
This is their longest losing streak since dropping eight games in a row to end the 2005-06 season.
''We've lost six in a row, and we still haven't figured out what the problem is. It's tough. I don't really know - 19 games in, and we're losing the same way,'' said Brandon Roy, who scored 18 points but missed 12 of 21 shots. ''Everybody is at a loss for words. Coach, he doesn't know what to say to us. And we don't know what to say to one another.''
Aldridge finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds, but he shot only 6 for 17. Andre Miller's 12 points came mostly from the foul line, because he was 2 for 12 on field goals. He was the only Portland player to take a free throw before the fourth quarter.
Arenas, meanwhile, started the previous nine games but wound up with 15 points and six assists in a reserve role. Both he and Saunders said it was Arenas' idea to stay out of the starting unit, although the coach said with a smile: ''When reality came for him to do that, I don't know if he was so sold on it.''
Said Arenas: ''I don't mind right now. We're trying to search for something that works for us. Tonight it worked. We still have plenty of games left, and we'll see from there.''
Making his first start in more than a week, Wall was rusty. He missed two games with a bruised right knee, then played against Toronto on Wednesday but did not start. He didn't gather his first assist until the third quarter.
''Just missing open shots. ... I might be a little winded,'' Wall said. ''You're going to have one of those. It was frustrating.''
That's a word that was used plenty in the other locker room Friday.
''We have a lot of talent, and losing right now is kind of hard to deal with,'' Aldridge said. ''We haven't figured it out and that's the frustrating part. Everybody is pretty frustrated now.''
Notes: Washington's Andray Blatche had 19 points and nine rebounds, while JaVale McGee added 13 points and 10 rebounds. ... The Wizards ended a four-game losing streak. They improved to 6-3 at home, but are 0-9 on the road this season. ''We've got to start winning on the road. We don't want to go 0-41,'' Wall said. ... The first 10,000 fans in the announced crowd of 13,408 received a Wall bobblehead. ... Portland C Joel Przybilla played for the first time since rupturing his right patella Dec. 22, 2009. He entered in the final minute of the first quarter and wound up with four points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes. ... Wizards swingman Nick Young was inactive because of a bruised left thigh.