Wake-up call: Poor ball-handling still plagues Wizards

Wake-up call: Poor ball-handling still plagues Wizards
March 24, 2014, 6:00 am
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Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) shoots the ball over Denver Nuggets power forward Darrell Arthur (00) in the fourth quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 105-102.

(Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sport)

Even in their only road victory in the past week, the Wizards didn't do much to impress coach Randy Wittman. What was a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter at the Los Angeles Lakers was reduced by 14 soon after.

They won 117-107 despite 20 turnovers, but it was a sloppy effort that was replicated in Sunday's 105-102 loss at the Denver Nuggets. The Wizards had a season-high 24 turnovers, eight coming from point guard John Wall.

"We can't just come out and play. When we have success during a game, we're up 21 with the Lakers and just throw the ball all over the place," Wittman said. "We've got to somehow handle the success that we have in a game better than we do."

Blowouts are rare, which prevents Wittman from emptying his bench and getting game action for Garrett Temple, Chris Singleton and rookie Otto Porter.

Earlier this month, they led the Milwaukee Bucks, who have had the NBA's worst record all season, by 28 points in the second quarter. The Bucks trimmed the deficit by 17 entering the fourth and got it all the way down to three before losing 114-107. Why? Eleven of the Wizards' 16 turnovers came in the second half. 

[RELATED Instant Analysis: Nuggets 105, Wizards 102]

In a game at the Philadelphia 76ers, the Wizards took a 15-point lead in the first quarter behind 24 points from Trevor Ariza alone. They trimmed it to four by the second though the Wizards pulled away to win 122-103 against a team so depleted that it currently has a 24-game losing streak. 

They've gotten away with this vs. inferior teams, and even though the Nuggets won't make the playoffs they are in the superior conference and have been injury-riddled. The Wizards lost a 14-point lead in the first quarter, led 49-47 at halftime and then blew a chance to gain separation to end the third. Drew Gooden's layup put Washington ahead 73-71 but ended the quarter with five turnovers on the final six possessions to enter the fourth behind 77-73. 

"We've given games away we can't coming down the stretch," Wittman said. "That's where they've got to grow up, understand that, understand what lays ahead. That doesn't send a good message of where our thought process is in this whole thing."

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