Entering Game 3 versus Chicago, the Washington Wizards have focused on two areas — understanding what allowed them to win the first two games of the series and finding what they can do to elevate their effort for what should be a physical contest at 8 p.m. Friday at Verizon Center.
Free throws are a good place to start for the latter. The Wizards may be the postseason’s most-talked about team but they are also the worst free-throw shooting unit in these playoffs, hitting just 42 of their 63 (66.7 percent) of their attempts.
To Washington’s credit, its players have connected in critical moments, hitting their last 12 free throws to close out Game 1 and all four of their free throws in overtime of Game 2. But assuming the Wizards should be shooting at their same 73 percent as the regular season, they’ve left four points at the foul line in games that required a late comeback and were decided by a total of 11 points.
Nene, whose proficient shooting from mid-range territory has paced the Wizards, holds the same crown that he held in the regular season as Washington’s worst free-throw shooter, hitting just three of his nine attempts (33 percent).
“The same time, it’s easy to take a shot, (but) it’s hard,” said Nene, who shot 58 percent in the regular season. “When you have pride, when you talk to yourself, that thing make it difficult sometime, when you have like wide open shot, it look easy but it’s hard because you deal with yourself, that’s the only thing.”
Nene also talked during Friday morning’s shootaround about cutting down on Washington’s turnovers. The Wizards are tied for the fourth-lowest turnovers per game in the playoffs with 11, but they also know how critical every opportunity and possession will be on Friday with the Bulls fighting to remain alive in the series.
Not to mention their fellow D.C. sports figure RG3 is expected to be in the house.
“We’re going to have to up the ante a bit tonight,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “We have to understand that this is going to be a little different. We’re going to have to play harder in this game than they we did in the first two games. That’s how it is with the playoffs. Each game gets tougher and tougher. We have to continue to step it up because it’s going to be a dog fight.”
(TV: ESPN, Comcast SportsNet. Radio: WNEW-99.1 FM, WFED-1500 AM)
Here’s some reading to get you ready for Game 3:
Boswell: Wizards worth watching