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Wizards hold players-only meeting after loss to Nuggets

Marcin Gortat and John Wall contemplate another punishing home loss. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)
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In search for answers at perhaps the lowest point of their season, the Washington Wizards held a players-only meeting following their 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Verizon Center Thursday night. They are hoping the session will have the same effect as the players-only meeting they conducted after starting 2-7 two seasons ago.

“It’s kind of similar to the past years. We’ve been through the same thing,” Beal said. “It always takes a team meeting or two to figure it out, but we’re at the point now where we know what we need to do. We’re still in a great position to make the playoffs with 40 or however many games we have left. We have a great opportunity to make a run so it’s up to us to be able to put it together and get out here and get some wins.”

The Wizards’ defeat Thursday – to a lottery-bound Western Conference team playing the second night of a back-to-back set – plunged them to four games below .500 for the second time this season at 20-24. They’ve lost three straight games and four of their last five after posting a season-best four-game winning streak. And the schedule isn’t getting any easier: Washington goes on the road to face the Houston Rockets on Saturday and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday before hosting the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

Wizards dig themselves an 18-point hole and can’t dig out in loss to Nuggets

“It’s difficult because we were just on a four-game winning streak,” Wizards forward Jared Dudley said. “We followed the blueprint of what we have to do as a team. So we have the tools. We have everything we need.

“For us, let’s be honest … except for this game none of the games have been close. It’s not a positive. But we have to be positive. We’re close to the halfway point but we got to get some wins and we got get some good flow and we got to get back to our style. This team can’t score 80 points. This team is in the 100s. We have to be able to defend the three and stop turning the ball over.

Defense has been the Wizards’ most glaring shortcoming of many. They’ve allowed opponents to score at least 100 points in nine of the last 10 games and 27 overall this season. After surrendering 117-plus points in two non-overtime games all of last season, they’ve already done it four times this season, and their defensive rating, ranked top 10 in the NBA the last three seasons, is currently tied for 18th in the league.

“It’s individual. No matter what scheme we put out there, if guys don’t go out and execute the scheme and don’t compete d defensively, defense is all about heart,” guard Garrett Temple said. “You don’t have to be the quickest, you don’t got to be the strongest, you just got to have heart. And that comes with defending every possession and rebounding. All of that is heart. And no scheme can keep a guy off the offensive glass. You got to box him out and rebound. No scheme will keep a guy from going one on one, get in the paint for a layup. That’s not a scheme. That’s one on one defense and we got take pride. We got to guard people.”