The Wizards have played so poorly at Verizon Center over the past two months that the prospect of a five-game homestand comes across more as a threat than comforting stretch of the schedule.
Washington has lost four straight and seven of eight overall at home and on Wednesday will welcome to its building the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. Afterward, the Wizards will have a home back-to-back against Chicago and Detroit on Friday and Saturday, Philadelphia for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee and Boston on Jan. 22 before taking off on a four-game West Coast swing. After that, they return home for another five-game homestand.
“It’s just for some reason when we step on that court out there, we’re not playing the same way that we do on other team’s home court,” John Wall said. “We just got to find a way to play with that same urgency, like passing the ball, trusting each other, moving the ball, making the right plays and play that defense that we played. All five guys, every time we were on the court helping each other out, talking, doing the little things that we need for us to win.”
If the Wizards (17-19) couldn’t win anywhere, their struggles at home would be more understandable but they have won seven of nine on the road and are tied for the second-most road wins in the Eastern Conference with 10. In contrast, they are in a five-way tie for the second-fewest home wins in the NBA at seven – and have been stuck on that number since 2014 began.
“I think sometimes at home, we think it’s going to be easy and it’s never easy,” Bradley Beal said. “Winning games is very hard. We have to be able to protect our house and be able to come out play with a lot of energy, the fans definitely deserve than that from us.”
Wall suggested that the problem begins with a lack of focus before home games. “I think in the locker room, sometimes we play too much. We play around too much before the games and doing other stuff,” Wall said. “But in the visiting locker room, we sit right there and can’t really do much. You can’t walk around, just there and court. You can’t really go to the weight room and things like that.”
The home and road statistics for the season have mostly been negligible. The Wizards are shooting an almost identical rate from the field (44.4 percent at home; 44.5 percent on the road) and the rebounding numbers are also pretty much the same (42.8 at home and 42.6 on the road). They are scoring more at home (99.1 to 97.0), but also surrendering more (99.7 to 99.0). The biggest difference has been at the three-point line, where the Wizards are shooting just 34 percent (6.9-20.4) at home, compared with 41.1 percent (8.7-21.1) on the road.
This month, however, the differences are obvious. They are 0-4 at home, where they have been outscored by a combined 45 points, shot just 41 percent from the field, 26.7 percent from three-point range and are committing 15.5 turnovers per game. On the road, the Wizards are 3-1 and have outscored opponents by a combined seven points – despite a 27-point loss in Indiana. They are also shooting better (44.5 percent from the field) and taking better care of the ball (11.5 turnovers).
“We talked about it last game. It seems like we get a little comfortable at home,” Garrett Temple said. “On the road, we know it’s us against the world, so we need to come out with the focus from the get-go. From the time the first bus gets in the arena, we have it on our mind we have a game to play. Whenever we walk into that arena at Verizon Center, it’s all about the game and it’s all about what you do to help your team win.”
The Wizards have trailed by 25 points against Toronto, 27 against Golden State and 25 against Houston in their past three games at home. Wall said the Wizards can’t continue to play that way in front of their pay customers.
“We’ve got to come out with a sense of urgency,” Wall said. “We get down early. I mean, the last four or five games, we’ve been down 26, 27. That’s no way to treat your fans the way they’ve come out supporting us this year.”