Now the Wizards are officially playing for the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference.
That’s because they can’t jump the Milwaukee Bucks (36-37) for the eighth and final playoff spot after Wednesday’s 88-78 loss at the Toronto Raptors.
“We didn't come out with any focus,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “That’s where, again, this group's got got to find a way on the road how to put a team away. Up 11 going into half time and you just go through the motions.”
Wittman has been trying to give his team, which began the season 4-28 without its two best players, John Wall and Nene, motivation to finish the season strong despite their fate being all but mathematically sealed.
The Wizards haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007-08, when they won 43 games and were eliminated in the first round under then-coach Eddie Jordan.
The Wizards led the Raptors 50-39 at the half but shot 19.4 percent in the third quarter and fell apart in the fourth.
"It's just a bad night," Wall said. "We couldn't get anything to fall. ... We didn't do a better job of spacing and making open shots."
This letdown came after a thrilling 90-86 win against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. But that was at home.
Wins on the road have been hard to come by.
The Wizards are just 7-30 away from Verizon Center. They’re tied with the Raptors (28-47) and two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for the ninth spot. The Bucks and the 76ers also lost Wednesday.
Though it means little to most on the outside, Wittman is doing his best to keep the Wizards playing for something with seven games left in the season. Six of those games are against playoff-bound teams.
“We stopped moving the ball. Everything was one pass, dribble. Too much dribbling,” Wittman said. “I don’t know why.
“No pace to the game. Everything was a walk up and a dribble, dribble, throw it to somebody, he tries to go dribble. We had no movement which is disappointing because he hadn't been playing that way.”
When the 2013-14 season arrives, he expects to be in the postseason picture, but the Wizards are missing a key element.
“You got to learn, somehow, that killer instinct that we (haven’t) shown,” Wittman said.
Stroking his chin at his locker and searching for answers, Wall concurred.
"We got to figure it out for next year. We can win at home with anybody," Wall said. "We just got to find a way to win on the road. That's how you become a playoff team. That's how you get better and develop. ... We're two totally different teams on the road."