The Wizards no longer have the NBA’s worst record – or second-worst, for that matter – after sweeping a three-game home stand against the Los Angeles Clippers, New York and Brooklyn. At 11-14, the Wizards have more home wins than four other teams and have turned Verizon Center into an unpleasant place for visitors, with eight of the past nine foes going down in Chinatown.
“People may or may not believe in home-court advantage, but there is,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “You’re sleeping in your own bed. You’re doing your own thing in your own town. And you’ve got your crowd, your fans behind you.”
But the Wizards won’t have the comforts of home in their final two games before the all-star break, as they face a playoff contender in Milwaukee and an improving Detroit squad that had them their worst loss of the season when the teams met in December.
And for all of the success they have had in recent weeks, winning 10 of the past 17, they remain wretched on the road. They have the league’s worst road record at 3-21 and would need to defeat the Bucks and Pistons to match Sacramento, Phoenix and Charlotte with five road wins.
The Wizards (14-35) are averaging a measly 86.2 points on the road, reaching triple digits just four times. They are also shooting just 40.6 percent and connecting on 33.7 percent from long distance. Opponents are outscoring them by an average of 9.1 points away from Verizon Center. Washington has suffered seven of its 10 double-digit losses on the road, including a 100-68 loss to the Pistons.
Even the return of John Wall hasn’t been a remedy for the Wizards’ road woes, with the team going 2-6 away from home.
“You’ve got to play better on the road. That’s the bottom line in this league,” Wittman said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to play better on the road and do it consistently. And it starts defensively, getting it going. That’s our next step. Take it on the road. I feel good about going into these next two games because of what we’ve done [at home]. We went through a tough stretch of games here. A lot of good games.”
The last time the Wizards won three straight games, they were feeling extremely confident as they embarked on a five-game trip out West. That trip started with a disappointing loss to lowly Sacramento, in which they blew a five-point lead in the final four minutes, and ended with another unsettling loss in Utah, as they rallied from a 22-point deficit and got within three points before fading at the finish.
The Wizards have lost four in a row overall on the road, after getting swept on a three-game swing through Philadelphia, Memphis and San Antonio. In each of those defeats, the Wizards were undone by poor second quarters and fell into deficits that they unable to overcome.
“I think sometimes, we come out and wait until the second half against the good teams and they come out and have a 15, 20 point lead and we fight back and the last four minutes we in the game, but I feel we use so much energy we can’t close it out,” Wall said, trying to explain the problem.
Wall has played eight home games and eight road games since coming back from a stress injury in his left knee and the disparity in numbers based on location is quite drastic.
In Wall’s 16 games, the Wizards are shooting just 42.8 percent from the field on the road, compared with 49.1 at home; 37.3 percent from beyond the three-point line, compared with 44.4; and committing 17 turnovers, compared with 13.8. They are also getting outscored by an average of 94.6-90.6 on the road, while outscoring opponents by 100-88 at home.
The Wizards have failed to scored 90 points in five of those road games. Wall is also shooting just 39.6 percent and averaging 3.5 turnovers away from home.
Wall said it was imperative for the Wizards to stay focused with much-needed vacation time awaiting them after they play the Pistons on Wednesday. “Get as many wins as you can and just keep playing the same way. And everybody will get a break off.”