Coach Randy Wittman could sense it almost immediately. The Wizards missed two shots at the start of the third quarter and allowed the Golden State Warriors to get two baskets and he immediately called a timeout. The deficit was just four points, but the body language of his players gave the appearance that they were already down 20.
“He said we were lackadaisical. We were still asleep,” Bradley Beal said, describing what Wittman told them during the timeout. “We played a great the first half, and the second half, it looked like a dog died or something. We just were not in tune. We gave up two quick baskets and got down four quickly. That is just something we have to stay away from.”
The timeout did nothing to stop the Wizards from sulking through the period. Marcin Gortat missed a layup, Wall and Beal both missed two jumpers apiece and the Warriors scored the first 13 points before Wall finally made a three-pointer with 7:38 left in the period. They still had plenty of time to come back, but the game was essentially over.
And Wittman’s fear of a 20-point deficit came quickly as the Warriors opened the third period on a 30-5 run.
“Coming out the third quarter, we laid an egg,” Trevor Booker said after the loss to Golden State.
For the second time in as many games, the Wizards failed to come out of the locker room at halftime ready to compete and got demolished in crushing fashion. In double-digit losses to Toronto and Golden State, the Wizards were outscored 70-31 in the third quarter and shot a combined 9 for 37 (24.3 percent).
“We’re too much, right now, of a team of front-runners,” Wittman said, “where if things are going good, our energy level is really high. And when we don’t make shots, the energy just zaps from our bodies. It’s has to be almost the other way around. It’s almost has to be, you’ve got to energize yourself through bad play. This game’s a game of mistakes. The team that can play through mistakes, and then obviously limit them, but play through them, usually wins.”
The Wizards have lost three in a row and have failed to score at least 20 points in the third quarter in each defeat. The Dallas Mavericks outscored them, 20-19, in the third period but the Wizards shot 8 for 24 in a game that neither team could shoot very well. Golden State made 13 of its first 18 shots in the third quarter and took a 90-67 lead on a Harrison Barnes jumper. Afterward, the scoreboard on the HD screen shut down.
“We need to start better on the third quarter,” Nene said. “That’s the moment a lot of teams go really hard.”
Washington shot the ball extremely well in the first quarter, when it set a new season high for points in a quarter at home, with 36. The Wizards shot 14 for 21 from the field (66.7) and Beal led the way with nine points. But Beal missed his last nine shots. John Wall helped force Stephen Curry into missing 12 of 17 shots, but he struggled to get much going offensively.
“We just got to find a way to get ourselves together in the third quarter and get ourselves out of a funk,” Wall said. “Some nights everybody is going to miss shots and that’s something you have to do as a team. Everybody has to keep playing defense and get you playing basketball the right way. We just keep moving the ball and try to get out of this funk of missing shots. But you got to keep playing defense no matter what.”