Despite loss, Wizards are spreading the ball around
Right now for the try hard Wizards, all the scrap in the world cannot overcome those dreaded - right now persistent - scoring droughts.
Rewind the season to November 3 against the Celtics. The Wizards rally and take their first lead with just under three minutes remaining only to never score again under a wave of missed shots, turnovers and inspired Kevin Garnett-led defense by the visitors.
Four days later in Boston, Washington fights its way into overtime against the star-studded Celtics, but miss 7 of 10 shots in the extra session. Another loss.
Friday night against the Bucks, the game tied at 72 with four seconds remaining in the third quarter, Milwaukee converts a 3-point play. That starts a 13-0 run as Washington goes over five minutes without a point, never seriously challenged the Bucks again.
"You go from a one, two point game to down 10, 11," Randy Wittman said following the loss to Milwaukee. "Somehow, we got to figure out how to alleviate those things from our game. We just struggle offensively to score."
The Wizards coach would make similar comments Saturday night following the 89-85 loss at Pacers, which dropped Washington to 0-5. There was not one, but two notable stretches where the scoring spigot went dry.
Facing his former team, A.J. Price's starry night included scoring five points during a 9-0 second quarter run that gave Washington a 47-40 lead with 3:32 left in the half. Good times, right? Close the half with the lead and even better, extend it. At least, that was the plan. Despite several opportunities to push the margin out further, the Wizards came up empty, scoring only two more points before halftime. Instead, Indiana tied the game at 49 heading to the locker room.
"We didn’t close out the second quarter," Wittman following Washington's eighth straight loss in Indiana, the coach's home state. "I think it was 47-40 and we have to come with a lead."
Holding the ball with a three-point lead and a chance to run the clock down to around five seconds in the quarter, Bradley Beal's driving attempts missed with 11 seconds remaining. With time for a final play, Indiana's Paul George hoisted a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Splash, tie game.
"We give them the last shot when we should have taken the last shot," Wittman said. "We shoot too soon and they come down and hit a three. There’s three more points that they shouldn’t have."
Similar tale in the fourth quarter. Jordan Crawford's 3-pointer put Washington ahead 75-70 with 11:33 remaining. The Wizards next points came on a Booker dunk nearly five minutes later. In between Indiana scored 10 straight points. The lead remained with the home team from then on, though Washington pulled within two points and put up the potential tying shot with four seconds remaining. Trevor Booker's half hook missed.
The non-scoring at times is not simply about missed shots. Five of Washington's 12 turnovers came in the fourth quarter, two by Beal.
"One of our problems is that we turn the ball over too much towards the end of games," said Beal, who matched Emeka Okafor with a team-high 17 points, but had two of those fourth quarter turnovers. "We’re hesitant in our movement and our passes and a lot of other things. We have the parts we need, it’s just putting it all together and having better overall execution.”
Those late turnovers are also a function of who is not playing.
Good things happened against Indiana, including Price doling out a career-high 14 assists. Emeka Okafor had his mid-range jumper working. Beal and Jordan Crawford combined for six of the team's 10 3-pointers. Yet for the most part, they aren't closers. Until John Wall and Nene return and everybody can return to their proper roles, this team simply lacks a go-to scorer when needed.
Back to Beal. The rookie's take on why the costly miscues crop up is both accurate and a message to himself. Beal's becoming more aggressive with each passing game, not to mention accurate; he made all three of his shots from beyond the arc against Indiana. However at times he passes on open looks, being overly deferential to his less accurate teammates.
He'll learn from that. Heck, he's only 19 with five NBA games on his growing resume. The Wizards collectively must learn from their bouts of scoring woes. Yes, the season is still young, but these droughts are getting old while the losing streak grows and grows. The team cannot afford to wait for those missing to return to action before solving the problem.