After winning seven of their past 10 games, blowing out their past four opponents at home by a combined 65 points and having Nene declare that they planned on “shutting up people’s mouths,” the Wizards moved into some new territory when they stepped on the floor Monday night against the Sacramento Kings.
Suddenly, with John Wall back, the ball moving better than ever and confidence at an all-time high, they were looked upon as a team that is expected to win. And unfortunately, the Wizards played like a team that knew that a switch would go off at any point, that they would pull away from the Kings with a Wall driving dunk or a Martell Webster four-point play. It never happened.
“We let them stick around,” Martell Webster said. “I think we kind of got into a mindstate where we felt, we can outscore these guys. We have to learn from those mistakes.”
The Wizards lost, 96-94, as Kings guard Isaiah Thomas scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning floater with one second remaining. But they also seemed to lose track of the unselfish play and ball movement that helped them experience a modicum of success in the past three weeks – and allowed them to score 57 points in the first half.
In the second half, the Wizards had 12 turnovers and just eight assists and got lulled into the quick-shot, one-pass-and-go style of the Kings. “That’s as bad a ball movement that we’ve had in almost a month and sometimes when things come easy. … I don’t know if we reversed the ball more than three or four times,” a flustered Coach Randy Wittman said afterward. “Whenever we have more turnovers than assists, that means we’re trying to do too much on an individual basis.”
If the Wizards hadn’t fallen into the same trap in Sacramento less than two weeks ago, the slip up at home would’ve been more acceptable. But with two losses by a combined three points, the Wizards were upset about giving away the season series against on the worst teams in the Western Conference.
“We had the game won. We had opportunities to put them away. We didn’t, in both games. That’s on us,” Bradley Beal said. “Enough is enough. We have to start closing out games.”
When the Wizards were stumbling through the first two months of the regular season, they used close losses as a reflection of their competitive spirit and willingness to fight. But with Wall in the lineup and other pieces getting healthy, the Wizards expect more of themselves because, as Wall said, “we have the talent to do it.”
The loss seemed more costly since it was the Wizards’ last home game before a three-game road trip through Philadelphia, Memphis and San Antonio
“We want to take care of home. You’ve got to make home very important. We know that defensively is where we’re going to have to get that game,” Webster said. “It would be good to keep our home streak going at home but we got to move forward and take care of road…We’ve got to make up for it in Philadelphia and I feel and I’m very confident that we will.”