Martell Webster is a newcomer to Washington. He didn’t contribute to the Wizards’ franchise-worst eight-game losing streak to start last season and hasn’t been around for the last four lottery campaigns.
But Webster did miss a fallaway three-pointer with 4.5 seconds remaining and Kevin Garnett contesting in the Wizards’ 89-86 loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday at Verizon Center. And, after the Wizards opened the season at 0-2 for the third consecutive season, Webster said his team has to stop the misery before it gets any worse – and get payback on Wednesday in Boston.
“It’s a must-win for us,” Webster said. “Usually, when you can get a win against some of the top teams in the league, you just ride that confidence…We need to go in with the mind-set that we must win this game and we must be aggressive on both ends of the court.”
The Wizards played poorly in their opener in Cleveland and the sloppy played continued at the start of their loss against the Celtics. The rally back to come from a 16-point deficit, and the solid defensive effort in the fourth quarter has Randy Wittman encouraged about what the team can accomplish moving forward.
“We should have won that game,” Wittman said after practice. “I don’t know if I can say that any clearer. Now we didn’t and I know the bottom line is it was a L. That should give them confidence even without stellar play. It’s not like we came out and shot 65 percent and lost by two. Now I’d be concerned [like,] ‘I don’t know if we can play any better than that.’ We can play better. We can play better.”
The Wizards had a few bad breaks work against in the fourth quarter, with Jordan Crawford spraining his left ankle and being ineffective the rest of the way and Rajon Rondo slapping in a Kevin Seraphin blocked shot near the foul line just before the shot clock expired. Wittman also noted how the Wizards held Boston without a field goal for the final 2 minutes 36 seconds and wasted opportunities to take the lead because of some bad passes.
“If we get one score, we probably win the game,” Wittman said. “We got to take positives out of this, too.”
Webster said the Wizards can’t accept losing as the norm, shorthanded or not, and must focus on “the little things” that it takes to win games.
“That’s why the front office made the changes that they made,” Webster said. “They feel very comfortable and confident with the group of guys they have in the locker room right now. As do I. So we need to go in there and make it work.”
Wittman spent most of Monday’s practice focusing on improving an offense that ranks 29th in the league at just 85 points per game, but his team is also tied with Orlando for the fifth-best defense, holding opponents to just 91.5 points in the first two games. A more tenacious, aggressive defense has allowed the team to remain competitive.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of that at this time last year,” Wittman said. “If we didn’t score points, we didn’t have a chance for our defense to win the game. That’s a credit to them to staying in it and being as active as they are defensively and we got to get that now moved to the offense.”
The Wizards hope to get out to better starts after two lethargic efforts against Cleveland and Boston. Webster believes that his team isn’t too far from turning the corner.
“We’ve already proved that we can come back. We’ve already proved that we can play with one of the top teams in the league,” he said. “Now it’s just, are we going to come out in the first five minutes and set the tone? When we do that, we make it easier on ourselves. It’s a lot harder to go a whole season digging your way out of the trenches. That’s hard. Your body and mind can’t keep up with that. So if you come out and play the first five minutes, then now it’s up to the second unit to continue it. Right now, it’s been the first unit starts slow, second unit comes in and picks it up. We need to have that on both sides.”
The Wizards have been one of the worst road teams in the league the past two seasons, winning just 12 of their 74 games away from home. Wittman doesn’t believe location will matter against the Celtics, though they haven’t won at TD Garden since April 9, 2010 – before John Wall arrived.
“I ain’t worried about road and home. We gotta just start playing the right way, whether it’s on the road or at home,” Wittman said. “If we have a start on the road like we did at home we’re going to be in the same position. I don’t want us playing one way at home and another way on the road.”