Livingston: Wizards can build off Heat win
If one ranked all Wizards' losses this season based on levels of absurdity, falling to the Hawks in Atlanta likely trumps the list.
During the 101-100 overtime defeat on Nov. 21, the then 0-9 Wizards led late in both regulation and overtime, spurred on by Nene's season debut. Yet even the Brazilian's big man's almost magical presence couldn't prevent all leads from evaporating.
Twice Atlanta's center Al Horford missed a pair of free throws with the Hawks down two. On both occasions, the Hawks grabbed the rebound and immediately scored the tying baskets, the latter coming inside the final 20 seconds.
Kevin Seraphin's hook shot put Washington ahead with seven ticks remaining, but Kyle Korver, Atlanta's premier 3-point threat, found open space in transition and countered with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left. The ludicrous cherry on top came when Martell Webster's tip-in of a Chris Singleton miss had the Wizards bounding into the locker room believing victory was theirs. Replay said otherwise.
Washington's chance for redemption -and to win its first road game this season - comes Friday night in Atlanta with coverage on Comcast SportsNet starting at 7:00 p.m.
"We lost that game. We lost that game," Wizards coach Randy Wittman stated following Thursday's practice. "We had six things to do at the end of the game. If we had just done one of them, we would have won the game. Just one of six. We didn't do any of six. That's how you beat yourself. We did I thought there...We respect what they did, but we felt like we gave that game away."
Since the heartbreaking loss, Washington suffered two more setbacks but have now won two of three including Tuesday's shocking 105-101 triumph over Miami.
Playing with confidence and a pass-over-dribble approach, the Wizards led after every quarter against the defending NBA champions and racked up a season-high 31 assists on 38 made baskets.
Now the question is can the team conjure up a repeat performance.
"That's what I told these guys, we can't throw this game away," Wittman said. "We've got to now build on that game and how we played that game and have that be a stepping-stone moving forward. So we don't have the drift back of holding the ball, dribbling the ball, 10 assists, 20 turnovers - and that we build on that."
In the first meeting against Atlanta, the Wizards had 20 assists on 38 baskets, along with 20 turnovers.
Since returning to practice following Tuesday's win, Wittman's continually emphasized all that went right in the victory, even assigning video work to drive home the point.
Wittman: I made them take the [Miami] game home. Look at it, look how we played this game and that's how we have to play the game. If we take a step back [Friday], we've really thrown that game away. My point, don't throw the game away. Let's make it another step - win or lose - that we walk in the locker room and say 'hey, that was good. We might have got beat, might win the game, but at least we feel good about how we're playing the game.'"
The Hawks (10-5), winners of seven of eight games, downed the Denver Nuggets 108-104 on Wednesday behind Horford's 25 points. Against Denver, Atlanta played with Korver, who has not seen action since Nov. 28 due to back spasms.
The Wizards, 0-7 on the road this season, will be without Trevor Ariza. The small forward grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds in the previous meeting at Atlanta, where Washington has lost 10 straight games.