Morning tip: Smarts, grit lack come closing time

Morning tip: Smarts, grit lack come closing time
November 19, 2013, 8:00 am
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Wizards looking to regroup vs. Timberwolves

(Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

WAKING UP with the Wizards (2-7), as they shoot around Tuesday morning to prepare for their game with the Minnesota Timberwolves at Verizon Center (CSN, 7 p.m. ET). ...

Randy Wittman has gone over the video with his team. The reason for their late-game meltdowns, as he sees it, is simple: They're poor at closing because they forget the game inside the game. In other words, the deeper the game goes the rules change. And their focus and decision-making hasn't adjusted accordingly. 

"We as a group need to understand that the last four minutes of a game have to be -- not should be or might be, have to be -- played differently than the other 44 minutes. We play the last four minutes like its maybe the first quarter where you can do some things, test some things. when its the last four minutes, its crunch time," Wittman said, referring to his team blowing double-digit leads in three losses and a nine-point advantage in another. "When its the last four minutes it has to be played differently.

"That's where we lose. You should be able to look at a game and with good teams you can tell -- without a clock or the scoreboard -- whether it's the last four minutes with how that team's playing. I can't do that right now looking at our team because we just kind of play the last four minutes. So we have to be smarter. We have to be more on edge. You have to do whatever it takes to get a rebound, to get a stop. That sense of urgency has to be different than it is the first 44 minutes of the game."

The Cleveland Cavaliers won in overtime on Saturday, 103-96, Wittman noted the physical play of Tristan Thompson, who isn't exactly noted for his brute strength, in the low post. He had 12 rebounds and a few during key stretches. He's in his third season and even he knows about the sliding scale when it comes to blowing the whistle. 

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"Basically took two of our guys, grabbed them by the back of their shirt, and threw them out of the way and got the rebound and dunked it at the end. He literally grabbed them by the shirt and pulled them and threw them down. There was no call," Wittman said. "You have to understand that. There is no bitching or complaining, 'I got fouled.' No, it's a dogfight the last four minutes. Now you got think that way offensively, 'I'm going to go down there and clobber this guy on the screen.' Probably not going to get called. They want players to decide the game. We've got to learn that. ... You've got to be willing to do anything for a rebound or a loose ball. That might not happen in the first part of the game."

That deer-in-the-headlights expression his players have when it comes to running the offense, Wittman says, is a product of not playing smart. It has nothing to do with play-calling, personnel groupings, the health of nicked up players or the weather.

"I don't think it's tightness. You have to have an understanding, is John Wall on the hot streak and we have to play through John Wall? Maybe it's (Eric) Maynor at the end of the game. Maybe it's Brad (Beal). Now you've got to play that game through those guys. Not just come down and play, make a call and hope whoever gets it, gets it. It's different now. You just played 44 minutes. You know who has got the hot hand and who doesn't. We got to play through it. We can't just come down and just play. I don't think it's a tightness thing. I just think its making the wrong decision and putting ourselves in bad spots in terms of our decision-making. That's got to be different in our last four minutes.

When he broke down the video for his team, Wittman insists they finally got it even if initially they didn't believe it.

"It's pretty black and white even though the film's colored. They really can't say anything. They see it," he said. "These guys are smart guys so we've got to just learn to see it and do it in the moment. ... You can't continually do it the same."