The Washington Post

Wizards working toward becoming a consistent winner

Coach Randy Wittman and the Wizards are in the middle of a five-game homestand and host the Cavaliers on Friday. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

By definition of being a .500 team 48 games into the season, consistency has been an issue for the Wizards.

Recently, however, Washington has begun to find an identity, one that coach Randy Wittman hopes will propel his team past the level of mediocrity into a legitimate playoff contender.

“Defensively is the main thing I think changed,” Wittman said. “We’re in tune. That’s been the main thing — we’ve been more consistent in our defensive effort. I’m old school, I still [believe] defense wins a lot of games for you.”

The figures bear Wittman out over the Wizards’ past 13 games. In their eight wins, they’ve held opponents to under 100 points and in their five losses, their opponents crossed the 100-point barrier (although to be fair, two of those games went to overtime).

“You don’t have to have a perfect game offensively, and you can still win if your defense is consistent,” Wittman said.

Achieving a level of consistency can be difficult from game to game, which is why guard Bradley Beal feels like the Wizards are making the most strides on the practice court, where they can pick up and ingrain habits.

“What our team does a great job of is, we don’t take days off from working,” Beal said. “We may have rest days, but we still have guys in here getting shots and improving as much as we can. That’s what’s making us play at such an elite level. I think our defense and mentality going into games now is a lot better than what it was previously.”

Friday’s game against Cleveland (16-33) — a team that beat Washington at Verizon in November — is a case where the Wizards feel like their newfound consistency will make it a different contest.

“It’s so long ago,” Wittman said. “It’s kind of like we talked [Wednesday] with the first San Antonio game — we were a different team now than we were then. We’re playing at a high level and I want them to realize that and keep it there.”

If the Wizards want to prove they are a day-in, day-out winner, playing on an even keel — even against bottom-feeders — will be the true sign of the team’s maturity.

“Those are the games you have to win if you want to be a playoff team,” guard John Wall said.



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