After watching the Wizards rally back from a 21-point third-quarter deficit and limit the Los Angeles Lakers to just 10 second-half field goals in their dramatic 106-101 victory, Coach Randy Wittman had to warn his players that the expectations going forward have been raised.
During the stunning 32-7 run that helped them assume the lead, and even the response after the Lakers came back to take a lead late, the Wizards proved that they were capable of moving the ball, making solid defensive rotations, trapping, and simply following through on the game plan.
“I told them, ‘You guys are screwing up because you’re proving to me you can do these things,’ “ Wittman said. “Maybe I was beginning to wonder, maybe they couldn’t do these things. That’s all it is. Preparation. Prepare yourself, and lessons learned.”
Wittman was highly upset with his team after its 20-point home loss to the Golden State Warriors two days before and blasted his players for being unprepared and unprofessional. He also said that he wouldn’t accept another similar performance. The Wizards still had a lackluster start, but the strong finish showed what they are capable of accomplishing.
“We talked about this in the last game, and I don’t think our minds were right,” Wittman said. “We came out, it was the best shootaround we’ve had all year. The attention to detail was fabulous.”
The Wizards (9-29) were fortunate to catch a Lakers team that is terrible away from Staples Center and on the second end of back-to-back games, but they also were able to recover from some poor shooting to win a game on the defensive end. The Lakers scored just 37 points and shot 26.3 percent in the second half – thanks largely to Kobe Bryant, who missed 15 of the Lakers’ 28 missed shots.
“We just didn’t give up. We had…a pretty large deficit, but the group that was in there just wanted to play hard,” said veteran guard Roger Mason Jr. “We got some momentum from the crowd and we just built on it. You look back to the game in Milwaukee [where the Wizards came back from a 22-point deficit] and we fell a little short, this team has some persistence in it. I think it’s a great sign that we were able to come back like that, keep working and finally we broke through.”
Wittman would rather not have the Wizards continue their troubling trend of falling behind early – they have trailed by double digits in the first half of all five of their games since the all-star break – but he also wants his players to realize that they are never out of games.
“That’s what, hopefully, can go a long way for us in terms of that mentality of staying in the game, playing as hard as you can,” Wittman said. “You never know in an NBA game what’s going to happen. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing.”