Wake-up call: 'Small ball' missing in action

Wake-up call: 'Small ball' missing in action
February 19, 2014, 6:00 am
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(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Now that the Wizards have lost five of six games going into Wednesday at the Atlanta Hawks, it's difficult to find a silver lining in Tuesday's 10-point loss to the Toronto Raptors at Verizon Center.

But the fact is they made a run in the fourth quarter, after coach Randy Wittman was ejected with 4:39 left and down 99-82, by going small. Martell Webster came in for Marcin Gortat, to give the Wizards a lineup with Nene, Trevor Ariza Bradley Beal and John Wall.

The Wizards (25-28) forced five turnovers. The Raptors' only points for the rest of the game came on free throws by Kyle Lowry.  

"What changed the momentum for us is when we went small," Wall said. "We went small and spaced the court. That would be a good thing to get to at certain times against certain teams. I think the way they were going and spreading the court, Patrick Patterson doesn't post up too much. He just spaces the court. We went small and got the opportunity to run a lot of pick-and-rolls, and if they helped we had a lot of shooters out there so that made it a lot easier. And we started trapping pick-and-rolls (on defense) and doing certain things differently."

RELATED: [Instant analysis: Raptors 103, Wizards 93]

So that begs this question: Why haven't the Wizards used small lineups more this season? During training camp, one of the key talking points was the versatility of the roster and having multiple players who were long, athletic, could shoot and guard multiple positions. At times, this is a top 10 defense. Other times, like Tuesday, not so much. 

Toronto got into the paint at will and scored 60 of its 103 points there. It was the second-most points allowed inside this season by Washington. 

"I don't know. That's all coach's decision there," Wall said when asked why the Wizards haven't experimented more with smaller lineups to find a spark in games like this. "We've done that in the past. ... Coach has his decisions and we feel comfortable with the decisions he makes. The players that's out there got to go out there and do their job."

But Wall has wondered about it. Even though the Wizards only won 29 games last season, they went small and produced good results. Of course, they were short-handed because of injuries and had no choice but there are other options that maybe the Wizards need to consider going into the final 29 games of the regular season. 

"You don't want to always look back to last season because this is a different team. A different year," Wall said. "But we had a lot of success with that at times. Sometimes he feels like it might not work. Those are the decisions he makes."