Wizards’ road trip was marred by miserable second quarters

February 3, 2013

“It was a tough road trip,” Coach Randy Wittman said of winless games in Philadelphia, Memphis and San Antonio. (Danny Johnston/Associated Press)

If the Wizards could have a do-over on their winless three-game road trip through Philadelphia, Memphis and San Antonio, they wouldn’t have play another 144 minutes against those teams. They’d only have to repeat the miserable second quarter that derailed them in each game.

Outscored 23-11 in the second quarter against the 76ers, the Wizards lost by eight points. Outscored 16-10 in the second against the Grizzlies, they lost by nine. And outscored 24-9 in the same quarter against the Spurs, they lost by 10.

With each game, the Wizards set a new season low for points in the second period. They also set a season mark for futility in any period in San Antonio, where they needed a Jordan Crawford layup at the buzzer to avoid having the second-lowest-scoring period in franchise history.

“It was a tough road trip,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “We’ve just got to get back to the way we were playing earlier – good ball movement, a lot of people contributing, player movement. It’s more a situation where we can’t go through long droughts that put you in a hole. That’s kind of what we’ve done.”

The Wizards scored 28 points in the first quarter against Philadelphia, 30 in the first quarter against Memphis and had 30 apiece in the third and fourth quarters against San Antonio. But in the second quarter of each game, they scored a combined 30 points while shooting 19.7 percent from the field (12 of 61).

“I think we just got to make open shots,” forward Martell Webster said of the second-quarter lapses. “There is no secret remedy to this. John [Wall] is a point guard that demands attention and when he gets two, three people to sink on him, he’ll find people open. Being able to knock down open shots is vital, that’s me included. He’s doing his job. We have to do our job. Our defense? There is nothing to say about our defense. If we’re hitting our jump shots, we’ll find ourselves not digging ourselves out of the trenches.”

Wittman agreed that the Wizards have to be more accurate from the perimeter but added that the team can’t rely on one way to generate offense.

“The defense takes one thing away, we got to move the ball along,” he said. “Making perimeter shots is a part of that. We also have to understand that when you’re not, finding a way to end that. Talking the ball inside, getting to the free throw line, and we didn’t do that.”

Despite a dominant performance in which they built a 27-point lead, the Spurs would probably also like to go back in time and play the second quarter over – if only to allow Gregg Popovich to take out Tim Duncan before Webster fell and inadvertently rolled into the all-star big man, forcing him to leave the game with a sprained left knee and a sprained right ankle.

The Wizards didn’t suffer any serious injuries in San Antonio, but they won’t have many fond reflections after they scored the first six points of the second period and closed within 29-23 with eight minutes remaining in the period. From there, the Wizards missed their next 14 field goal attempts, 5 of 6 free throws and were outscored 22-3 the rest of the half.

“We stopped moving the ball and it felt like it was a lid on the hole,” Wall said. “We had a couple of open shots and we just missed them. They got into their flow. We tried to run our plays and they was just denying it.”

The breakdown felt eerily similar to what happened the night before in Memphis, except the Wizards squandered a decent-size lead against a team that has struggled to score this season and recently traded away its leading scorer, Rudy Gay.

Forward Trevor Booker made a jumper to put the Wizards ahead 34-25 lead with 10:47 left in the second period but they went more than seven minutes without scoring another point. Nene ended a string of 12 consecutive misses when he made a short jumper that gave the Wizards a 36-34 lead with 2:59 left in the half.

The scoring drought in Philadelphia was slightly smaller but no less detrimental, where the Wizards led 32-31 when Kevin Seraphin made a jump hook with 8:56 left in the first half. For the next 5:50, the Wizards missed eight field goal attempts, committed five turnovers and only scored when Trevor Ariza made a technical foul shot after 76ers center Spencer Hawes was called for defensive three seconds.

Emeka Okafor finally ended the drought by making jumpers on consecutive possessions, but the Wizards trailed by nine at halftime.

“We just go through our stretches,” Okafor said. “Just go through these lulls that come back to bite us.”

The Wizards averaged just 82 points on the trip and are averaging 90 points in their past nine games, a continued slide since averaging 104.8 points in Wall’s first four games of the season. Wittman had to remind players at halftime in San Antonio that they were the same team that put up big scoring numbers a few weeks ago, before concerns about individual production “crept in.”

“I don’t know. I’m not sure what it is, but it wasn’t the right style of basketball for us,” A.J. Price said. “For whatever reason, we went back to more isolation, one-on-one quick shot offense. We’re much better when we play off each other and move the ball and don’t worry about who scores the ball.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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