The Washington Post

Washington Wizards look to stay afloat during back-to-back sets

We’ve got a lot of back-to-backs, guys.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

CLEVELAND – Bradley Beal admitted that the Wizards’ finish on Wednesday in Cleveland was “rocky,” with the team letting a 27-point third-quarter lead get chopped down to four points before barely holding on to a 98-91 victory. But the Wizards will take wins, no matter how they come, especially after clawing back from a 16-point deficit the night before to claim a victory against Minnesota Timberwolves.

“We knew we was tired,” John Wall said after the Wizards won on consecutive nights for the first time season. “We had to fight hard.”

With Indiana, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta the only four teams in the Eastern Conference with the winning records and the rest of the conference foundering, a two-game win streak can result in a huge jump. The Wizards (4-7) entered Wednesday’s game in 12th place but moved into a tie with Detroit for eighth place after defeating the Cavaliers.

“We feel like we need to get every game, plain and simple,” Martell Webster said. “We have goals here, but at the same time we have to take baby steps in order to meet those goals. Being able to take care of back-to-backs is big. We’re trying to be .500 or above in our back-to-back situations. In the East, looks like it doesn’t take very much to get in the playoffs, but more importantly, we have to be able to play the game the right way.”

Washington’s next six games will all be back-to-back sets. The Wizards have Toronto and New York on Friday and Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee on Tuesday and Wednesday and Indiana and Atlanta on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30. They will have a total of 18 back-to-back sets this season.

“That’s what you have to do,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “Looking back over the summer, the eight playoff teams were .500 on the second night of back to backs.”

Wittman is mostly correct about last season’s Eastern Conference playoff teams. Milwaukee, which finished as the eighth seed last season, was the only playoff team in the East with a losing record on the second night of back-to-back games. The Bucks went 9-13. Miami went 15-1. Indiana was 14-8. New York was 12-7. Brooklyn was 13-10. Chicago was 11-8. Boston was 11-10 and Atlanta was 11-11.

The Wizards are now 2-2 in back-to-back sets this season and 1-1 on the second end.

“I told our guys that’s how you get in position to make the playoffs – when you’re tired or you get in late or you had a tough game. You come in and you make that effort to win that second game, and that’s what these guys did,” Wittman said. “They were ready to go right from the jump ball. There are things we can learn, but I’m happy for the guys.”

After winning two in a row for the second time this season, Marcin Gortat warned against the team getting complacent again. They followed up the last win streak with four consecutive losses, and didn’t handle prosperity well after leading Cleveland, 75-48, with 5 minutes 11 seconds left.

“We kind of enjoyed it too much. We just relaxed a little too much. When everything is working out perfectly, you start settling,” Gortat said. “It’s a great feeling, we finally get some wins, but the season is not over. It’s still too early to say something. We can’t get excited about that. We have to continue to play hard and continue to play as a team, play together. If we’re going to continue to do this, I don’t see any reason why we won’t have a winning streak.”

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



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Michael Lee · November 21, 2013