ORLANDO – The Wizards are in a good position to possibly end a six-year playoff drought, but they have spent most of this season wiping out some lengthy road losing streaks that have haunted them over the years. Already this season, the Wizards have ended an 11-game losing streak in Atlanta, a 10-game losing streak in New York, a six-game losing streak in Boston and a five-game losing streak in Philadelphia.
Oddly enough, Orlando remains a place that has brought the Wizards much agony over the years. Washington has been 0-for-Amway Center, been 0-for-Amway Center, losing seven straight games in Orlando dating back to Feb. 5, 2010. Orlando is also one of two Eastern Conference cities in which John Wall has never won.
Wall was rudely welcomed to the NBA with a 29-point loss to Dwight Howard and the Magic in his NBA debut. Even with Howard gone, the Magic still beat the Wizards at home both times last season, when the team won just 21 games.
“The past is the past,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “You worry about the game that’s ahead of you.”
The Magic is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a franchise this season and will recognize former employees Wittman, Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat, Drew Gooden, and Al Harrington with a video tribute during the game. Wittman was an assistant in Orlando under Brian Hill from 2005-07. Ariza spent part of two seasons in Orlando, Gortat played parts of three, Gooden spent 1½ years and Al Harrington rarely played in his lone season with the Magic. Harrington said he didn’t feel any special emotion about being back.
“It’s cool. It’s the best arena I’ve played in. this is the nicest arena, for sure,” said Harrington, who has played in some of the league’s top digs, including Madison Square Garden and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “But I was here for what, a cup of tea? It was too short.”
Harrington was more concerned about the Wizards getting back on track after a two-game losing streak that has caused the team to slide below the Brooklyn Nets for sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards have stocked the roster with several veterans that have been in the playoff chase and Harrington said he expects John Wall and Bradley Beal to lean on them during the final stretch.
“But we’re going to have to lean on them, too,” Harrington said. “We have to stay on them and continue to push them to take care of their bodies, keep doing their correctives to let them know it’s going to pay off at the end. They know they’re young and think they can do whatever but it gets a little tougher at this point in the season.”
After averaging 110.9 points while winning eight of nine games he Wizards have failed to score more than 90 in their past two losses to Miami and Charlotte. Wittman blamed the offensive struggles on failing to play with an uptempo pace. “Make, miss, we got to get the ball up the floor, 18, 19 seconds on the clock,” Wittman said. “We walked it up too much, now you’re up against the shot clock.”
Wittman added that this stretch will let him know which players he can trust in the postseason. “Find out the fighting spirit of the team and individuals,” he said. “You learn a lot in these situations, so it’s a good situation to be in and a positive one that these guys and one that they have to learn from.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet. Radio: WFED-1500).
Here’s some reading to help you get ready for the game: