DALLAS – Coach Randy Wittman doesn’t want to harp on what went wrong in the Wizards’ 106-105 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. They can’t go back and make the some of the 13 free throws they missed, show more patience and mismatch recognition on offense down the stretch or stop Nene from tangling with Russell Westbrook after already receiving a technical foul.
“We’re moving forward. We’ve got to move forward,” Wittman said after Monday’s practice at American Airlines Center.
The Wizards were upset about being outscored, 24-13, in the final eight minutes of regulation and overtime, but Wittman wants his players to focus on the ball movement that helped them build a double-digit lead, on forcing Westbrook to take 16 shots to score 13 points and on limiting the Thunder to just 37 points in the first half.
Going into their final two games of this challenging road trip against Dallas and San Antonio, Wittman said his players should think about “how we played, how we got to the position we were in. … I never want to feel good about any loss, but we got to be positive with what we did to win on the road in a place like that.”
John Wall took the loss the hardest after missing a potential game-winner and taking “two bad shots” in the final minutes of regulation instead of exploiting Thunder switches that saw him matched up with forward Serge Ibaka.
“I let the game slip away, being a point guard, not managing the time the last three minutes, but I think the whole game, I did a pretty good job even though I wasn’t making shot,” Wall said. “I just didn’t do a good job closing out the game.”
Wall had a second straight poor shooting night, but he once again forced his point guard counterpart to struggle as well. Westbrook and Brooklyn’s Deron Williams have shot a combined 9 for 30 (30 percent) against Wall. Wall also helped force Westbrook into five turnovers and he even blocked a Durant jumper.
“I am very encouraged. If we play the same way, of playing as a team, and playing defense – that’s what kept us in the game – even though they made runs,” Wall said.
Marcin Gortat walked off the court with his hands on his head, pondering how the Wizards lost a game in which they were in control. Washington trailed for a total of four minutes in the second half, all in overtime, but led by three points with 80 seconds remaining.
“We learned that we got to play 48 minutes, not 46. That’s the first thing,” Gortat said. “Second thing, we’ve got to be smarter at the end of the game, how to execute and how to play defense on guys like Kevin Durant. The most important thing, we’ve got to make free throws. If you want to win the game, you can’t miss so many free throws. Try to win against a team like that. We might get away, against different teams, but OKC, you’ve got to make free throws.”
Gortat had his string of three consecutive double-doubles come to an end, but he also had a season-high four blocked shots. With Nene ejected, Gortat also played well in overtime once the Wizards realized that the 6-foot-11 big man had a guard on him. Gortat made two strong baseline moves to make easy layups and added that the players shouldn’t spend much time dwelling on their errors.
“It’s about being a smarter player in the next game,” Gortat said. “If you know you made mistake today or yesterday, you just make the adjustment in the next game. That’s the only thing you can say. I could get more rebounds, I can get more blocks, I could be smarter on defense. It’s over. You can’t think about that. It’s too late now.”
Wittman said the loss probably led to a few sleepless nights. “We all sat of up [Sunday] night, I’m sure, each of us that was a part of the game [and asked] ‘What one thing could I have done differently?’” Wittman said. “Maybe one play. it’s not any one guy’s fault, but I want guys to feel that way. I want them to say, ‘Next time we’re in that position, we’re better prepared to be a success at it.’ I want them to learn from it, but I don’t want them to forget why we were where we were. That’s the most important thing. We can’t come out and feel sorry for losing a tough game, come out do the same thing. Come out and lay it on the line, see where chips fall.”