Once again, coach Randy Wittman can say that he told you so. He didn't have to alter his starting lineup or his bench rotation to get the desired result from the Wizards. They just had to play harder on the defensive end, from opening tip to the final buzzer. Friday, that happened.
"It’s a mental thing as much as it is physical. Trust me," said Wittman, after his team only shot 39% from the field but held the Indiana Pacers to 35.4%. "Sometimes you think you’re out there playing hard until you watch yourself on film. That’s a thing that’s been true since the day film was invented. Film don’t lie.”
Wittman was referencing their effort earlier in the week, when they fell down by 25 points to the Phoenix Suns at Verizon Center. This has been the pattern all season for the Wizards (37-35) as they get up for the elite teams such as the Pacers but struggle to beat less-accomplished ones.
Saturday, they'll play the second of a back-to-back vs. the Atlanta Hawks, likely a No. 8 seed playoff team but struggling with a five-game losing streak. Have they learned their lesson?
“I think we’re turning it around," said Bradley Beal, who was just 2-for-13 shooting with a right hip pointer. "It’s that time of the year. It’s playoff time. And we’re right here. Teams we need to lose are losing. All we’ve got to do is win. So I know for us to move up in the seedings and for us to get to where we need to get to at the end of the year, we got to continue to play hard and try to win every game.”
The ball pressure on the Pacers forced them into seven first-quarter turnovers. They ended with 17, leading to 21 points for the Wizards, and never could get on track offensively.
"We understand that we just got to play defense," Wizards point guard John Wall said. "If we don't play defense we can't really beat anybody in this league and the reason why we won this game is everybody played defense, contested shots and rebounded the ball as a group.”