The Washington Post

Wizards not getting to the foul line

We’ve got to go harder in the paint. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

The Wizards are one of just two winless teams in the NBA and rank 29th in the NBA in scoring at just 88 points per game. They have topped 90 points just twice in five games – and three of their losses have been by a combined 13 points.

But poor shooting isn’t the only reason they can’t score, and poor late-game execution isn’t the only reason they can’t win close games.

The problem in both cases? They can’t get to the foul line.

The Wizards rank last in the NBA in free throw attempts at 14.6 per game. Dwight Howard leads the league at 11.6 free throws per game.

In their 89-85 loss on Saturday to the Indiana Pacers, the Wizards attempted just seven free throws. Pacers reserve big man Tyler Hansbrough, a human wrecking ball, had six free throws – in the fourth quarter alone. Hansbrough had 12 free throws in the game, though he made just four.

Only three players on the team are averaging at least two free throws per game, with Bradley Beal leading the team with just 3.2 per game. They have had just seven free throws in two games this season, including their overtime loss to Boston last Wednesday at TD Garden.

The Wizards rank 25th in the NBA in field goal percentage (41.4), with 241 of their 420 field goal attempts coming from 16 feet and beyond. And they rank third in three-point attempts (24.6) – which accounts for nearly 30 percent of their field goal attempts – despite ranking 28th in three-point percentage (28.3)

“We need to attack the basket more and stop looking for calls,” Beal said recently. “We know that sometimes a ref’s going to call a foul and sometimes not. We can’t complain or cry about not getting foul calls. Sometimes we settle for too many jump shots when we can keep going to the paint and attacking them.”

After the loss to Boston, Coach Randy Wittman was asked if the team wasn’t getting to the line because of a lack of aggressiveness. “You ain’t getting me in trouble. The answer to your question is no,” Wittman said. “You’re not getting me in trouble.”

Wittman stopped short of criticizing the officiating in Indiana, but said, “I don’t understand the respect thing.”

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis mentioned the free throw disparity in the loss to the Pacers on his personal blog and wrote, “It is amazing how a star player can get the ball – at games end – clear out, go hard to the hole, draw a foul and calm the team down,” Leonsis wrote. “We do need to get to the foul line more by going directly to the basket.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.



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Michael Lee · November 11, 2012