Wake-up call: Wittman flirts with lineup changes

Wake-up call: Wittman flirts with lineup changes
March 27, 2014, 6:00 am
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(Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

In less than six minutes to end the third quarter, the Wizards cut a 25-point deficit to 10 -- with a small-ball lineup of John Wall, Andre Miller, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza and Drew Gooden -- in Wednesday's home loss to the Phoenix Suns. Without prompting, coach Randy Wittman said after the 99-93 loss that he is open to juggling his rotation with 11 games left in the regular season.

"I found five guys that finally had enough and decided to play the game with intensity and fight and make a difference. That's what I've got to find. That's why we've struggled at home. We just show up and see how the game is going to play out before we dictate how hard we're going to play," Wittman said after his team trimmed the deficit to as little as four in the fourth quarter before losing for the sixth time in nine games. "That's what we've got to clean up. If it's lineup changes, we've got to find guys who do what we did, got down 25 and then said, 'We better come play, this really could get ugly.'"

Wall only had five points in the first half, but he scored 24 in the second half to spark the comeback as he was able to finally break through the Suns' trapping defense. 

"It was just pride. We went smaller, matched up with them and switched pick-and-rolls, got ourselves back into the game, got into the open court, started to attack the basket and we got to the three-throw line," Wall said. "We got about four or five stops in a row."

[RELATED: Instant analysis: Suns 99, Wizards 93]

The Suns can stretch the floor with shooters, using Channing Frye at center. Though 6-11, Frye has range, too. He made two three-pointers as the Suns made 14 of 28 overall from deep. 

That forced the Wizards (36-35) to go smaller. But going forward, with Friday's game vs. the Indiana Pacers, Saturday vs. the Atlanta Hawks and Monday at the Charlotte Bobcats, it is unclear if the Wizards can be successful going small again.

The Pacers have a 7-2 center in Roy Hibbert and a physical 6-9 power forward in David West. The Bobcats have center Al Jefferson, who is almost 300 pounds and been on a tear since January.

So what does Wittman do if he's to make an adjustment? He could insert Drew Gooden into the starting lineup in place of Trevor Booker, who has averaged just 6.6 points in his last eight games. Gooden has three-point range and is a better stretch option. Or when when Wittman goes to his bench he can play Miller with Wall, something that rarely has happened since acquiring Miller in a trade Feb. 20. 

In 22 minutes vs. Phoenix, Miller had seven points, five rebounds, a season-high four steals and two assists to help spark the comeback. Gooden only had six points on 3-for-5 shooting in 18 minutes -- breaking a streak of five consecutive games scoring in double figures -- but grabbed seven rebounds.