The Wizards return to Washington for a challenging three-game stretch, starting with the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. Outside of competing with the Clippers, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, righting the recent return to inefficient offense, particularly off the bench, stands as the primary objective.
Perhaps playing in the friendly confines of the Verizon Center will help. Three straight road games certainly did not, leading Randy Wittman to take rotational action in the finale.
During the recent 7-3 stretch, ball movement and unselfish play dominated the activity more so than individual domination of the ball. Voluminous amount of assists leading to consistent shot making with five to six double-digit scorers proved common.
Over the current four-game losing streak and specifically the three straight road losses, not so much. Playing at Philadelphia, Memphis and San Antonio, the Wizards (11-35) collectively shot 39.1 percent from the field.
Yet the struggles were not all equal. During each of the three first quarters, Washington averaged 25 points - and that includes a woeful 17 on Saturday against the Spurs. During the second quarters with reserves primarily leading the way, the Wizards scored 11, 10 and nine points respectively.
Following the loss at San Antonio and the again before Monday's shootaround, Wittman stated a belief that worrying about the individual in some cases overshadowed the working as a unit.
"We have to understand how this team is successful," Wittman said on Monday at the Verizon Center. "I think it's been proven how this team is successful. These guys know, have seen it. It's just staying with it, not letting anything creep in - shot attempts, minutes played. ... I thought that crept in a little bit."
While Wittman did not single out any specific player, his actions during the second half of the 96-86 loss against the Spurs spoke loudly.
Don't let the final score fool you: In the first half, Washington shot 26.2 percent from the field, had more turnovers (9) than assists (7) and trailed 51-26. Unsettling as those numbers may be, the second quarter-only statistics were worse as the Wizards shot 4 of 22 shot and were outscored 24-9.
Most of Jordan Crawford's 14 minutes came in the second quarter - and all came in the first half. Wittman never called on the volume shooting guard after halftime as the Wizards rallied back within six points. Washington scored 60 points in the second half and finished with five double figure scorers led by John Wall's 21. Seldom-used forward Chris Singleton scored 11 in 20 minutes.
Continuing with the not letting individual mindset creep in, Wittman said of the post-halftime effort, "Second half we got away from all that and just played. Took what the defense gave us and didn't care who it was or why it was or when it was."
During the four-game slide, Crawford is shooting 29.6 percent (8 of 27) with seven turnovers and four assists. Missing attempts is one thing, but Crawford's ball-dominant style often contradicts a pass-happy approach, one that Wittman has worked on implementing. Even without Bradley Beal, the coach kept his confident gunner on the bench against the Spurs.
Last month Crawford missed four straight games with a sore ankle. Without the third-year guard, Washington went 3-1, had its highest scoring game of the season (120 points against Orlando) and twice doled out a season-high 32 assists.
"I'm going to play the guys that are going play the right way," WIttman said. "When you score 26 points, that's what we're going to do.
It makes for an interesting subplot on Monday night considering Wittman anticipates being without Beal's sprained right wrist keeping him out for a fourth straight game.
"A little better, probably doubtful for tonight," Wittman said of Beal, the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in December and January.
The rookie guard's hot shooting month lost momentum following a hard fall on Jan. 18. Without the perimeter threat, the Wizards have shot 28.1 percent (18 of 64) from beyond the 3-point arc.
Trevor Booker is also a game-time decision after missing Saturday's game with a sore left wrist.
Though recent victories over Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Chicago indicate Washington's potential, the Wizards are 0-3 against the upcoming opponents, including the 94-87 loss at Los Angeles.
"It's a tough schedule, one we're capable of doing anything with," Wittman said.
Though they have lost two straight and six of eight, the Clippers (34-15) remain atop the Pacific Division. Los Angeles played the last seven games with All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who will also sit out Monday's contest with a bruised right kneecap.