Regardless of what happens Saturday night, the sum of the Wizards’ trip can be viewed only with disappointment. Washington (26-22) has lost three of its first four matchups, including a blowout in Dallas, after which diminutive guard J.J. Barea created a stir by claiming Wizards players do not like Wall. Markieff Morris took exception and fired back. But the fire shown off the court has not translated where it matters and Washington will post a losing mark over the five-game stretch even if it exacts revenge on the Hawks for a Dec. 27 defeat inside Philips Arena.
On Friday, the Wizards returned to the arena for a short practice and Coach Scott Brooks reviewed the last four games as missed opportunities.
“We haven’t had a good trip,” Brooks said, “but we can make it better by taking care of business tomorrow and go 2-3. It’s not a guarantee but it can make our trip better.”
With a 121-112 loss to the surging Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, the Wizards cemented a sub-.500 record for the trip.
Over the last three games, Washington has ranked 29th in the league in field goal percentage (.463) and in Oklahoma City, the shots remained off target in the first half. Even worse, the Wizards could not negotiate their offense effectively. Instead of combating the athleticism of the Thunder with better cuts and quicker, more decisive passes, Washington committed turnovers (23, leading to 36 points) and wasted possessions.
“Last game we turned the ball over but I thought we played pretty hard,” Brooks said. “We couldn’t make shots to start the game, couldn’t make a shot throughout the first half but we came out and scored 72 points in the second half and that was with all of our turnovers.”
While some elements of the loss deserved a rave review — Bradley Beal produced 41 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 780 career three-pointers — others warranted condemnation.
In the fourth quarter, the Wizards’ offense clicked for 38 points but their defense lagged, especially in the paint. None were more egregious than two plays that involved 33-year-old Carmelo Anthony.
Under the five-minute mark, Anthony brushed past Wall, who was walking down the court, to put back a miss with a two-handed dunk. Then with 1:16 to play, five Wizards were occupied tracking Russell Westbrook, leaving no one to account for Anthony, who again breezed into the paint for a dunk.
“We have to do a better job,” Brooks said. “We have to stay in plays. [Wall] has to. All of us do. We have to be better.”
There were other shortcomings. The second unit played timid against the Thunder’s defense and each player produced a negative plus/minus rating. Also, while Thunder center Steven Adams grabbed seven offensive rebounds, and 10 total, the Wizards’ starting big man Marcin Gortat collected just one rebound in almost 21 minutes.
Washington couldn’t stop Westbrook — who played the game under the mistaken wrong assumption that he was the last player picked by LeBron James in the NBA’s new all-star format. The roster turned out to be listed in alphabetical order and Westbrook appeared last, but since Beal and Wall came before him, he played with an extra chip on his shoulder and pounded the Wizards for 46 points.
“We definitely need a win,” Wall said, referring to the final game on the trip. “And try to get yourself some type of momentum. Going to the break and relax and get everybody healthy as much as possible and give ourselves one big push to end the season.”
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