Is it too early for a must-win game?

Is it too early for a must-win game?
November 7, 2012, 1:45 pm
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When Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld went out and added veterans Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, A.J. Price and Martell Webster to a roster that included a core of young talent, coach Randy Wittman said his team could no longer use the excuse of being young and inexperienced.

That was before John Wall and Nene were stripped from the lineup with injuries, forcing guys like Okafor, Ariza and Price from secondary roles to primary ones.

“That’s why the front office made the changes they made,” Webster said. “They feel very comfortable and confident in the group of guys they have in the locker room right now, as do I.

“We already proved we can come back and play with one of the top teams in the league,” Webster said, referring to Saturday night’s come-from-behind 89-86 loss to the Celtics.

Perhaps that’s why Wittman is not ready to do too much roster shuffling tonight in Boston [7:30, CSN] after starting the season with a pair of losses.

“We’ve played two games,” he said. “I’m not pushing the panic button here on anything You’ve got to give certain things time.”

Like getting to know each other on the basketball court.

“We have a lot of new faces and we’re doing a lot of new things, even with the guys who were here last year,” Wittman explained. “I’ve got a belief in them and they’ve got to believe in themselves. We can’t be tentative.”

In two straight games the Wizards have been victims of their own poor starts, but Webster said falling behind 17-2 to the Celtics in their home opener was the product of missing open shots, not poor execution.

“If we knock down 50 percent of those it’s a different score,” he said. “It might be 16-10 [instead of 17-2]. That being said we have to set the tempo and establish the game play in the first five minutes.”

The Celtics’ win on Saturday was their first after season-opening losses to the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. The Wizards are trying to avoid the same early-season skid that ruined last season and got Flip Saunders fired.

Last year, the Wizards opened the season with eight straight losses, including back-to-back setbacks against the Celtics.

“It’s a must-win for us, as any game,” Webster said. “When you can get a win against one of the top teams in the league you can ride that confidence. We’re not saying we’re going up there and blowing these guys out. But we have to go in with the mindset that we must win this game and we must be aggressive.

“Our best offense is our defense. We’re a young, transition, running  team, but we’ve also got to hit our open jump shots.”