After winning two of their first 17 games, the Wizards have won two of their past three thanks to a scheduling break that allowed them to play the injury-riddled Charlotte Bobcats twice. They handled the Bobcats with ease on Wednesday at Verizon Center, then escaped with a close win on Saturday in Charlotte.
But the win-padding portion of the schedule has ended and the Wizards will have to earn some victories between now and the all-star break. They play 13 games before the break, including a challenging four-game Western Conference trip in the middle of February.
Seven of their next 13 opponents have winning records - Chicago, Orlando, the Los Angeles Clippers (twice), Miami, Portland and Utah. Of the six games against teams with losing records, three are on the road in Toronto, Detroit and Phoenix.
The Wizards (4-16) will have their first challenge on Monday against the Bulls, who held the Wizards to a franchise-record low 64 points when the teams met on Jan. 11.
The Bulls didn’t need Derrick Rose to handle the Wizards, letting John Lucas III do a decent imitation, but Rose will be ready for the rematch — and he will probably have extra motivation after a disappointing loss on Sunday in Miami.
“That’s a tough team,” John Wall said of the Bulls. “They got their star back and they’re playing great right now. Just got to give our all. It’s going to be a tough challenge, they’re one of the top teams in the East, got to go out there and play hard and play as a team.”
Even with the two games against the Bobcats, the owners of the league’s worst record, the Wizards still have the 11th-toughest strength of schedule in the NBA this season. Their opponents through the first 20 games have a combined winning percentage of .528.
The Wizards are trying to run and share the ball more under new Coach Randy Wittman, and they had considerable success on Saturday, as six players scored in double figures. They had just 14 turnovers, an improvement from the average of 23.5 miscues in the previous two games, and 26 assists.
“This is just thee games into it,” Wittman said. “They’re not perfect yet, they’re not going to be perfect on Monday when we play Chicago, but we’re getting better each day.”
They’ll have to with the upcoming schedule.