John Wall repeatedly broke down Atlanta Hawks defenders, got close to the rim, but couldn’t finish. Andray Blatche demanded the ball in the low post, but didn’t know what to do when he was down there. JaVale McGee made swift moves inside but watched his hooks and finger rolls roll around the rim.
“We missed too many layups. You miss 30 shots from here in, that’s pretty tough,” Coach Flip Saunders said as he mimicked taking a layup.
In their first two losses, the Wizards have hurt themselves by failing to convert in areas that are often taken for granted. They hope to have some of those problems corrected on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Wizards missed 13 of 34 free throws in a 90-84 loss to the New Jersey Nets, but they improved in Atlanta, where they shot 77.3 (17 of 22) from the foul line.
The Hawks blocked five shots – with Josh Smith (two blocks) and Al Horford (two blocks) altering other attempts – but the Wizards had a problem finishing, as they were just 15 of 38 on shots within 10 feet. They missed their first seven shots at the rim until Wall made a fastbreak layup with two minutes left in the first quarter.
“We’ve been like that. Our bigs are having a tough time. Like JaVale, unless he has a dunk right now, some of his shots keep rolling off,” Saunders said. “John had about four or five layups and he was right there.”
Wall missed 7 of 10 inside and Blatche missed 6 of 7. McGee didn’t take any shots outside of the paint, missing four non-dunks, but he also finished 7 of 11 from the floor. Veteran Rashard Lewis was 1-for-2 from four feet in, but said the early struggles offensively create problems for the team throughout the game.
“I think we’ve got a young team; when they make mistakes, they put their head down or get upset instead of keep playing. I try to motivate the guys to just keep playing, because you’re never out of the game out there.”
Saunders said the challenge for his team is to maintain focus and move on. “A lot of times, we have a tendency, if we don’t make our first shot, our heads drag. I tell the guys, ‘It’s like you’re in quicksand, the harder you try, the deeper you fall.’ Just got to try to let things happen, let it come.”
Saunders, though, has been pleased with the Wizards’ effort on defense. The team has limited the Nets and Hawks to just 41 percent shooting through the first two games, which ranks eight-best in the league. They ranked 25th in the league last season, allowing teams to shoot 47.1 percent.
“We’re contesting shots. You’re talking six percentage points from a year ago — that’s a huge drop. That’s the one positive,” he said.