NEW YORK — When the Washington Wizards look back at many of their 12 losses this season, a common frustration arises: A team with core stability still plays unpredictably. Despite being loaded with talented scorers, stagnation on offense and occasional no-shows on the defensive end have led to inconsistent efforts and often losses, as the Wizards experienced in their fourth game of this long road trip Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It takes five guys to get a good defensive stop. It takes five guys to get a good shot on offense, and you can’t have four. You can’t have three doing it. You have to have all five guys doing it,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “We have it, but we don’t have it consistently and you have to have it consistently and that’s the mind-set of being disciplined and playing with toughness and keeping it for the team and not about your individual success.”
In this up-and-down season, forward Mike Scott has recently been the picture of consistency.
“He’s been giving us everything,” John Wall said. “Sometimes he doesn’t play, sometimes he does but he’s always ready whenever his number is called. But the most important thing, he knows how to play this game the right way.”
During the Wizards’ 113-112 loss to the Clippers, Scott hit his 12th straight field goal, which was the longest active streak in the NBA before he finally missed his first shot in three games. Overall, Scott, whose 22 points on Saturday marked his most since April 2014, has connected on 17 of his last 19 shots for a stunning .895 field-goal percentage.
In his role as a career backup, Scott takes pride in coming off the bench and making the smart basketball play. Above everything else, his league-leading percentage over the last three games shows the consistency in his vast game.
“I’m not going to say that I’m going to come out and go 12 for 12 or 9 for 11 but I’m always going to play the right way,” Scott said. “Play unselfish on both ends and be a great teammate. Play hard. Be a competitor. If I do that and stay healthy, I like my chances.”
Scott, 29, signed a one-year deal with the Wizards as a bit of an enigma. He had crafted a stretch-four role in his first four seasons in the league with the Atlanta Hawks, but surgery to remove bone spurs in his left ankle had limited him so significantly through his fifth season that Scott pretends as if last year never happened. The lost fifth year allotted time to recover from the procedure — the same one Scott had in college which forced him to red shirt his fourth year at Virginia.
When he arrived in Washington this summer, Scott proclaimed to be 100-percent healthy though a year after the surgery, he still felt limited. It wasn’t until last month, Scott said, that he began to feel like his old self.
“I haven’t felt like that in a long time, like a year and a half,” Scott said. “You know with an injury like that, it’s mental.
“I’m a one-foot jumper,” Scott explained, “and I like to jump off my left. It’s just always in the back of your mind: ‘I don’t want to go too hard on it’ or ‘it’s hurting a little bit.’ Now, there’s no pain. It doesn’t hurt. It feels good.”
Aside from those physical barriers, Scott has remained a constant even when his minutes were not consistent. Beginning in the middle of November, Scott sat three games as a “DNP-CD” (Did Not Play — Coach’s Decision). After every game in which he was benched, however, Scott bounced back the next night by shooting at least 62.5 percent from the floor. He said the benching did not bother him, especially since he knew Brooks’s roster management had nothing against him.
“Same thing happened in Atlanta,” Scott said. “Some days I wouldn’t play. Some days I would. Just stay ready. Scott Brooks came to me in Charlotte and said, ‘Stay ready, you’re not doing anything wrong.’ So that was encouraging to hear from him. Just stay ready.”
Wall practices, Mahinmi sits
On Monday, John Wall participated in his second full practice but will likely not return to action when the Wizards close their five-game road trip against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
“I can’t commit that he’s going to play tomorrow,” Brooks said, “but he’s definitely moving in the right direction.”
Though Wall is progressing, backup center Ian Mahinmi has returned to the injury list.
Mahinmi did not practice due to a right knee strain he suffered Saturday. The team wanted to see how Mahinmi responded through light layup drills at the start of the session, but he was removed from the court. Mahinmi is listed as questionable for Tuesday.
“Not so sure about tomorrow. Just going to see how he feels after another day of treatment but he did not practice today,” Brooks said. “It’s definitely sore. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Mahinmi’s soreness has disrupted his best offensive stretch this season. On Saturday, Mahinmi made 4 of 6 shots for a season-best 14 points and last Thursday in Phoenix, he notched 10 points and eight rebounds.
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