Just when it looked like the Washington Wizards had found a good groove with their “Everybody Eats” mantra, things have once again gone downhill.
They’ve lost three straight, most recently to the depleted New York Knicks, a team that had won just three games over the span of a month entering. With the defeat, Washington has dropped five out of seven and slipped down to sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
“We looked like we didn’t give a damn, honestly,” Beal said after the 101-97 loss at the Verizon Center. “We just thought we could show up and play because they don’t have anything to play for. We just thought it was going to be a cakewalk and they smacked us in the mouth.”
Known as the outspoken leader of this Wizards group, Beal had plenty more to say on the team’s shortcomings during the recent down stretch.
“It’s on us,” Beal said. “It’s on this locker room. Coach preaches it every single day, but until we do it individually and together collectively, we’re gonna get our asses kicked in the playoffs.
“It’s not even…this isn’t even remotely acceptable, how we’re playing right now. We’re playing like we’re gonna be done on April 11th, April 12th.”
Washington’s starting point guard at the moment, Tomas Satoransky, has an idea of the issues at hand. For one, he believes they are getting a lot of their shots blocked, which leads to some hesitation when the looks are there. They are also not getting inside and driving the ball as much as they have before.
“I don’t think we’re nervous,” Satoransky said regarding the poor stretch. “It looks like we’re waiting for John [Wall] to come back and change everything and playing like we did the first game he was missing. That’s not the right way to do it. We have to go out there and play as hard as we can every game.”
Adding to Satoransky’s thoughts, there is no one problem at the moment. It’s several things.
The Wizards are sharing the ball just fine, yet not converting on open shots. Since June 10th, they rank 20th in average points in the paint (44 per game) and are allowing a league-worst 52.3 points in the paint per game to opponents. As a result, their offense is suffering from a lack of fast break opportunities and they’re turning it over when they do have the ball.
“We’re struggling scoring the ball right now,” Washington head coach Scott Brooks said following the loss to the Knicks. “We’re missing a lot of easy shots—layups, tip-ins, dunks. Those are things that you gotta make. It’s simple. You gotta make those easy ones that we were getting.
“When you do that, the basket becomes bigger, you get more confident. But when you miss those easy put backs, those easy bunnies, it puts a lot of pressure, a lot of stress on the defense.”
A reporter asked Brooks whether or not the Wizards’ eyes are fixated on the present as opposed to looking ahead to Wall’s return and the postseason. He thought it was a good question and had his opinion ready on the matter.
“I would hope that they would have it on now,” Brooks said. “Because if you don’t, you’re never gonna win a game. The games are competitive, so I don’t think it’s that we’re looking ahead for John coming back. But we have to, we gotta play better. We gotta make shots. We gotta play better basketball.
“And it takes the group. You’ve got one of the best players in the league out, it takes the group to execute and get stops and get shots and we’re not doing it at the level we were doing it about two weeks ago.”
As it stands, there is plenty of potential for movement around the conference. As previously mentioned, they have the sixth seed, but the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks are right on their heels. The Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers have shot up the ranks with their stellar play, so it’ll be tough to catch them at this rate.
Certainly, those that believed Washington was better off without Wall are starting to realize how untrue that is. Ironically, he could be the perfect spark that this Wizards team needs to kick it back into gear.
How soon that will be, who knows? But if the All-Star point guard gets back in time for the home stretch and the playoffs, there may be a revival of a team that could do some damage in the East.
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