Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman yells during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in Washington. The Mavericks won 87-78. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) Hey, guys, a free throw would be nice here! (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Wizards Coach Randy Wittman often gets frustrated with his players when they let their offensive woes determine how they approach the defensive end. That wasn’t the case in an 87-78 loss against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, when they shot 37.5 percent but still held the Mavericks to just 38.5 percent.

The difference in the game, though, was at the foul line, where the Wizards made 7 of 10 free throws – and one of those attempts was off a defensive three-second violation, which Bradley Beal missed.

Dallas was 21 of 23 from the foul line, including a perfect 13 for 13 in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve got to continue to develop our game to get to the rim to get fouls on bad shooting nights,” Wittman said. “I think that was really the difference: We didn’t make shots, they didn’t, but in the end they were able to get to the free throw line more.”

Mavericks guard Monta Ellis bested the Wizards by himself, connecting on 9 of 10 free throw attempts while scoring a game-high 23 points.

The Wizards have had a few offensive clunkers this season, and their poor shooting performance against Dallas was hardly the worst: In their 75-74 loss on Dec. 9 to the Denver Nuggets, the Wizards shot 36 percent. They have failed to score at least 80 points and shot worse than 40 percent from the field four times this season and have gone 0-4 in those situations.

But aside from blowout losses in San Antonio and Indiana, the Wizards actually had opportunities to defeat the Mavericks and Nuggets at home. Both times, the Wizards were allergic to the foul line. They made five three throws in nine attempts, both season lows, against Denver.

“We wasted a good defensive effort I thought from our defensive standpoint, but we just couldn’t get into a rhythm the whole night,” Wittman said after the Dallas loss. “It was just one of those nights. Those are the games you’ve got to fight through.

“We’ll look at some things and what we can do better and where we, from a standpoint when you have a tough shooting night, where’s the openings to get to the free throw line or to overcome,” Wittman said. “That’s what we’ve got to learn to get to next, is the ability to get to the free throw line on tough nights. You make a couple free throws, get a layup, your confidence is tremendously turned around.”

Beal admitted that the Wizards were a little rattled when they continued to miss open looks against the Mavericks.

“Sometimes you get hesitant, if you’re not making shots. You’re going to second-guess yourself sometimes,” said Beal, who shot just 4 of 13 and had just one free throw attempt.

The Wizards rank 28th in the league in free throws made (15.8 per game) and 24th in attempts (20.8). John Wall ranks 18th in the league in attempts with a team-best 4.6 per game and was 5 for 5 against Dallas. But he felt that the Wizards’ inability to get to the line on Wednesday wasn’t simply because they weren’t aggressive.

“You try to attack basket, but it depends on how the whistle is going that night. You can’t really control that part,” Wall said, cracking a smile for fear of saying anything more.

Nene fouled out for just the second time in four seasons against Dallas and agreed that the officiating didn’t go in favor of the Wizards.

“You guys saw the game. I don’t want to talk about foul, because If I talk about fouls, there’s going to be fine, so don’t ask me about fouls,” Nene said. “Defensively, we did our job. But offensively, some point in the season, things aren’t going to be the way we want. That’s what happened. Especially on me. That makes me mad.”

Wittman hopes his team will learn from the latest loss that points can be manufactured in more ways than precise execution. “It’s not easy, or everyone would do it,” he said. “When you struggle doing things, you’ve got to get to the basket. Get to the foul line, create scoring opportunities other than, is my shot going in or out. We’ve got to do a better job of that, because we’re going to have off nights and our defense was good enough to give us a chance to win the game and so you’ve got to figure that out. How am I going to score when if we’re not making shots?”