Winnable stretch ahead for Wizards

Winnable stretch ahead for Wizards
March 14, 2013, 7:00 pm
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For every win the Wizards have against a playoff-caliber team, they have two losses vs. the bottom-rung ones.

Ultimately, that’s what separates a team such as the Wizards (21-42) from the playoff-bound Milwaukee Bucks (32-31).

Washington was victorious Wednesday, 106-93, by outscoring Milwaukee by 16 points in the final period. They play vs. the New Orleans Hornets (22-43) on Friday and the Phoenix Suns (22-43) on Saturday in home games, both on CSN at 7 p.m. ET. 

Their two games after that are on the road vs. the Charlotte Bobcats (14-50) and Suns.

The Wizards are playing better than their overall record suggests. They have won eight of their last 11 home games, including triumphs vs. the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks in the last month. But since starting 4-28, they get losses vs. teams such as the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings overshadow those accomplishments.

“I don’t know what that’s about,” forward Trevor Ariza said of the Wizards’ improved focus vs. winning teams. “We need to fix that. We got 19 games left. We have to play that way, not worried about the records or anything and just play.”

The fact is, however, that good teams aren't good by accident. They have better individual talent which gives them a bigger margin for error, but they also know how to close out. 

Wizards coach Randy Wittman has a lot of players who aren't accustomed to being on the floor in crunch time. 

Martell Webster, for instance, hasn't been a full-time starter since 2007-08 with the Portland Trail Blazers when he averaged 28.4 minutes per game. He has started 48 games in Washington and is averaging a career-high 28.9 minutes. In his fourth season, A.J. Price has never been a starter. He backs up John Wall, but when the point guard was healing from a left knee injury to start the season, Price filled in until his return in January. 

“Some of these  guys haven’t been in these positions with teams they've played before. Martell, guys like him, A.J. Price, our young guys are learning what it is under two minutes," Wittman said. "I remember early on them say, ‘Coach he’s fouling me.’"

Wittman had to remind them, "They re not going to call fouls in the last minute of the game," he said. "You don’t know that. You don’t realize that. ‘But they called it in the first quarter though.’ Yeah, that was the first quarter. They’re not going to call that. Those things helped our guys to be in position now. We got to make a play here the last 30 seconds  of a tie game. That goes a long way."