At the least the Washington Wizards have ensured that they won’t have to worry about being asked for a while about their struggles when they get to .500.
Since claiming the franchise’s first winning record in more than four years two weeks ago, the Wizards have slid back into a familiar and uncomfortable hole after losing five of their past six games. Their 103-93 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night was their third in a row and continued stretch of dreadful play going back to when they blew a 17-point lead against the depleted San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 5.
Washington even looked sloppy in its lone victory during this recent funk, barely pulling out a win against Sacramento that brought the team back to .500.
The Wizards (25-28) have followed up by wasting Bradley Beal’s career scoring night in Memphis, being on the receiving end of a questionable call that cost them a game in Houston and getting outclassed at home by Toronto. Now they are in a steadily tightening Eastern Conference race in which a playoff spot — let alone one of the top six spots — is far from secure with 29 games left.
“We definitely know that we won’t get these games back, for sure, but I don’t think we are losing confidence or anything like that or thinking that the season is slipping away because we still have 29 games,” Beal said. “That’s a lot of games.”
With these problems developing as the trade deadline approaches, Coach Randy Wittman said the Wizards aren’t desperate to make a move because the team has enough to reach its goals.
“I think we do. I really do. I think we’ve proven it. We’ve put together stretches throughout this season of putting ourselves in this position to fight down the stretch. I totally believe in those guys in there and what they can get done,” Wittman said. “Obviously, if there is a situation that can help you get better, you’ve got to look at it. But it’s not one that, we’re sitting here saying, ‘We have to do something.’ I believe with what we got in there, we’re going to get where we want to get.”
The Wizards have already overcome records of 0-3, 2-7, 10-13 and 14-17 and clawed to get their record back even. John Wall didn’t want to start panicking because the team has proven that can handle some rough patches in the season.
But they are also just percentage points ahead of Brooklyn for the sixth and 1 1/2 games ahead of Charlotte for the eighth spot.
“You don’t focus on that,” Wall said of the current struggles. “It’s a slump that you’re going through right now and we’ve been through this slump before then we got back on the right track. When you get back on the right track you have to try to stay on the right track as long as possible.”
Toronto has owned the Wizards all season, winning all three games and holding significant double-digit leads in each contest. But if the Wizards defeat the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday at Philips Arena — where they haven’t won in their past 11 meetings, including a one-point, buzzer-beating overtime defeat in December — they would move back into fifth in the Eastern Conference.
“That’s the great thing about playing in the NBA. There is pretty much another game in 24, 48 hours. We just got to regroup,” Marcin Gortat said. “I would say the most important thing is to just get back to the hotel, look in the mirror and say, ‘What can I do to help this team?’ and ask yourself the question, ‘Did I do everything I could to win this game?’ If you really did everything that was necessary to beat your guy and win your matchup in the game.”
Beal also believes the Wizards have to have “amnesia” and focus on the games ahead. “This season is still up for grabs,” Beal said. “We’ve got two teams behind us that are creeping up as well, so it is definitely going to be a tough stretch for us. But we can’t let games like this get out of hand, and get down by such huge margins where we put ourselves in a position where we can’t do anything about it.”