Wizards look to rediscover touch from three-point line


Can I get a DC-3?! ( Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

When the Washington Wizards downed the Boston Celtics on April 2, they not only clinched their first playoff spot since 2008, but they shot like a team poised for the postseason.

Included in their 65 percent shooting from the field was a 10-for-19 performance from three-point range, punctuating a season that’s seen the Wizards capitalize on the penetrate-and-pass skills of John Wall and the floor-stretching ability of shooters such as Trevor Ariza, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster.

But in the last three games, Washington has struggled to get going from behind the arc, hitting just nine of 50 attempts (18 percent). Wednesday’s loss to Charlotte marked the season’s low point, as Washington went 1-for-15.

“Maybe it was just one of those nights, man,” Beal said. “Everybody’s shots was rimming out. We’ve just got to move on from it.”

Shooting slumps are a natural part of any season and the Wizards have been proficient this year, ranking third in the NBA with a three-point percentage of 38.2. What’s more, Nene’s return to the lineup provides Washington with another forward who can space the floor with his post presence and mid-range shot.

But whether the Wizards are hitting 60 percent of their threes or six percent, Coach Randy Wittman believes the key to snapping their two-game losing streak is putting together a consistent, four-quarter effort.

“It doesn’t boil down to that, making and missing shots,” Wittman said. “You’re going to have games where you go 1-for-15 and you’ve got to be able to survive those. I think if we would’ve had a first half like we did the second half, with the intensity and defensive effort that we did, the outcome might’ve been different going 1-for-15.

“Shooting comes and goes,” Wittman added. “When you’re a good team, you figure out ways to win those games.”

Washington guards also seem bent on figuring out how to shake off their recent shooting slump. Beal often spends extended periods of time after practice and before games working on his jump shot, while Wall typically heads to the team’s auxiliary gym after practice to work on his shooting.

With four players knocking down at least 100 three-pointers this year in Ariza (173), Webster (142), Beal (128) and Wall (107, after totaling just 49 in his first three seasons), it’s not confidence that the Wizards hope to improve upon, beginning with Friday’s game at Orlando.

“With those guys I got on my team that’s been missing shots these last few games, I’ll feed them every game I got the opportunity,” Wall said. “Sometimes, shots going to fall, sometimes, they’re not. You got to find a way to fight through those slumps and you’ve got to do that on the defensive end and we haven’t been able to do that.”

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.

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Michael Lee · April 11, 2014