Two nights after being outplayed by the Detroit Pistons in a lid-lifting road loss, the Wizards squandered a 12-point lead in the third quarter at Verizon Center. Again, the Wizards watched as an opponent made decisive plays to close out a victory. They wilted when it was time to make a stand. Although we’re used to the Wizards disappearing at the most inopportune moments, they’re already in midseason form. Coach Randy Wittman has seen it all more times than he cares to recall.
“I’ve got to figure out how to get these guys to play the right way for 48 minutes,” Wittman said.
By putting on a must-see show Friday at Verizon, the Wizards could have taken a good first step toward repairing their image. They wasted an opportunity to get things started the right way.
Verizon hasn’t been an NBA hot spot since Gilbert Arenas was an all-star. Beginning in the 2004-05 season, the former high-scoring guard led a group that earned four consecutive postseason berths and had the District abuzz about its entertaining style of play.
Although those Wizards never were title contenders, they were interesting, competitive and carved out a nice niche. Teams truly headed in the right direction have to accomplish at least that much. Last season, the Golden State Warriors did.
The Warriors were one of the league’s longtime bottom-rung teams. When a franchise qualifies for the playoffs only twice in 20 seasons, reaching the NBA Finals shouldn’t be the first goal on its list.
But during the 2012-13 season, the Warriors gave their fans something good to see. The league’s best young back court was a real attention-getter.
Sharpshooters Steph Curry and Klay Thompson racked up three-pointers while leading the charge to the team’s first postseason appearance since the 2006-07 season. Quickly, Oakland’s Oracle Arena became a tough spot for visiting teams to play – the Warriors were 15 games over .500 at home – and a fun place for long-suffering Bay Area basketball fans. The party kept rolling in the playoffs.
Curry’s hot shooting was too much for the Denver Nuggets in an opening-round upset. The Warriors’ run ended against the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals. They lacked the experience to compete with one of the league’s most successful playoff teams. In going as far as they did, however, the Warriors got what they needed most: fans believed in them again.
The Warriors changed the perception of their franchise. That’s what the Wizards are striving to do.