If you want to know why the Wizards have now matched their own record for futility with eight straight losses to start the season, you need only look at the final five minutes of every game.
It seemed every time opportunity knocked in their 83-76 loss to the Utah Jazz, the Wizards hid in the basement and waited for it to go away.
Case in point:
After drawing within three points of the Jazz on a jumper by Jordan Crawford with 6 minutes, 15 seconds to play in the fourth quarter the Wizards’ next 12 trips down the floor went like this:
- Offensive charge.
- Personal Foul.
- Crawford sinks two free throws.
“We’re missing shots and we don’t get to the free throw line,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said after seeing his team fall for the eighth straight time. “When you’re missing shots you’ve got to have the ability to break somebody down and get to the foul line.
“Sometimes we avoid contact instead of getting the contact and getting to the free throw line.”
The Wizards managed just six points in the final 6:15 as they sputtered to their eighth straight loss in front of a disenchanted crowd of 16,210 at Verizon Center.
Why so disenchanted? The Wizards own the worst record in the NBA and already have made the road to the playoffs an uphill battle.
Inserted into the starting lineup in place of rookie Bradley Beal, Crawford led the Wizards with 20 points and Trevor Ariza added 16. Al Jefferson rebounded from a 4-point first half to lead the Jazz with 21 points.
Wittman’s decision to shake up his starting lineup paid big dividends early. With Crawford replacing Beal and Jan Vesely starting ahead of Trevor Booker the Wizards ran off the first 11 points and built a 15-4 lead.
Vesely and Emeka Okafor were particularly effective together, combining for five points and five rebounds before they were replaced by Booker and Kevin Seraphin.
That, however, was when the Jazz, playing the final game of a four-game road trip that began in Toronto on Nov. 12, went on a little tear, making up a 13-point deficit to enter halftime trailing 40-38.
“You’re up 15 or 16 points after the first and that might be a situation where they say, ‘This game’s over,’” Wittman said. “Those are the things we have to learn to realize as a group: the mindset of what’s going on in a game and what they’re going through.
“They just came from Philadelphia. We jump on them right away, get them down and they might throw in the towel. The coach might say, ‘Hey, let’s play some young guys tonight.’ We don’t give ourselves that opportunity.”
Instead, the Wizards got outscored 27-23 in the third quarter and 18-13 in the final quarter. The biggest reason was their inability to contain Jefferson, who ripped off 17 points and seven rebounds in the second half.
Overall, the Wizards were outrebounded 34-20 in the second half and outscored in the paint 22-16.
“We got beat up a little bit by their size,” Wittman said. “They just wore us down.”
Again, there was a large disparity in the scoring by the Wizards’ starters and their bench.
The starting five of Trevor Ariza, A.J. Price, Crawford, Vesely and Okafor combined for 57 points, but just 23 in the second half, while Kevin Seraphin, Cartier Martin, Shaun Livingston and Beal combined for 19 points off the bench.
Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker were particularly ineffective off the bench in the first half, going a combined 0-for-6 with six rebounds, zero points and four personal fouls.
“We don’t have any balance right now,” Wittman said. “In a perfect world I’d like to have eight or nine guys and play them every night. They know who’s starting, who’s coming off the bench. Right now I don’t know who’s going to play each night.”
The Wizards will have to figure it out soon. The Wizards return to practice on Sunday and are back in action Monday night when the Indiana Pacers visit Verizon Center.