Even on a night when the Washington Wizards ignited their unpredictable offense, shared the ball, received a strong performance from a big man off the bench and saw their backup shooting guard settle into his temporary role at point guard for a season-best performance they still couldn’t find a way to have it all add up to a victory.
The Wizards fell, 100-95, in overtime Tuesday night at Verizon Center, marking their sixth consecutive loss to the Atlanta Hawks in a streak that dates from April 9, 2011. It is the third close game against the Hawks this season to have slipped away from 3-19 Washington, which was ultimately undone by 37.9 percent (36 of 95) shooting in key moments.
With yet another defeat overwhelming the positive aspects of the Wizards’ game, Coach Randy Wittman had little but gallows humor to offer when asked how it felt to lose in every way imaginable this season.
“I look up every morning and make sure the sky’s up there, that it’s not falling in on me,” Wittman said. “Trust me. This has not been fun. We’re going to continue to fight and we’ll continue to try it again.”
For the Wizards, the lowest-scoring team in the NBA, there may be no more daunting a challenge on any given night than finding and maintaining an offensive rhythm, especially with John Wall and A.J. Price — players who are supposed to guide the offense — sidelined by injuries.
But in his fifth game as starting point guard, Jordan Crawford appeared comfortable in the role. He took advantage of his own scoring opportunities while still finding his teammates with regularity and went on to record his first triple-double since April 1, 2011 — his rookie season — with 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.
“I’m just getting comfortable each game, just playing, going out there playing,” Crawford said. “I mean, don’t have a position just like to play.”
In the first half, it was rookie Bradley Beal most often on the receiving end of Crawford’s passes. Beal sank his first four shots and went 6 for 7 with 12 points to lead the Wizards into the half. But in the third quarter, Beal gave injury-rattled Washington another scare.
With 5 minutes 29 seconds remaining in the third, Hawks forward Josh Smith rejected Beal’s dunk attempt and sent the 19-year-old tumbling hard to the floor. Beal went to the locker room immediately and was tested for a concussion after smacking his head off the court, but returned to the bench before the quarter concluded. He resumed play in the fourth quarter.
“I feel fine. My back’s tight, but I don’t have a concussion, my head’s not hurting or anything like that,” said Beal, who finished with 17 points and five rebounds. “I’m just banged up. I should be good to go tomorrow, though.”
It was also at the start of the second half that Wittman replaced starting forward Chris Singleton, who recorded just two points and two rebounds in the first half, with veteran Earl Barron in order to provide a spark inside.
Barron played a season-high 26 minutes, anchoring the Wizards with 14 rebounds and four blocks. He, like the rest of the home team, struggled to find his shot consistently and went 2 for 10, but it was his jumper with 23 seconds left in regulation that tied the game 90-90 to force overtime. And it was Barron again who hit another jump shot with 3:04 remaining in overtime to give Washington a 93-92 lead.
Atlanta went on a 6-0 run immediately after, though, to reclaim the lead and leave the Wizards to watch their shots in the critical moments of overtime clank off the rim. Washington missed five of its final six shots and went 2 for 9 in the extra session.
“It’s always little things that we mess up on,” Barron said. “Little, simple mistakes on offense like setting screens or cutting hard, things on defense as simple as talking. If we clean up little things like that the record wouldn’t be nowhere near what it is right now.”