ORLANDO — This is what frustration looks like.
On Friday night, the collective body language of the Washington Wizards told the story of the team’s 117-108 loss to the Orlando Magic. The Wizards looked frustrated. With the sloppy moments that created 29 points for the Magic off turnovers. With the officiating that resulted in two free throws for an attacking guard. And most of all, they looked frustrated with each other.
Their sighs and groans may seem muted, but amplify after poor defensive possessions. Washington let the Magic tee off from the three-point arc in the first half for eight makes on 15 attempts.
The way they look at each other when someone makes a mistake may be fleeting, but those dead-eyed expressions are becoming the official resting face of the Wizards.
“We got to stay away from all the negative activity that’s going around,” forward Jeff Green said. “Focus on the things we can control . . . that’s energy and that’s effort. And if we continue to do that I think we’ll get out of this hole.”
The problem is the Wizards are showing the energy, effort — and chemistry — of a 2-9 team and the hole they’ve dug only seems to be getting worse.
After the game, Green spoke for an extended period while sharing his thoughts on the team’s body language.
“It’s just negative energy that’s in the air. Can we control it? Yes. How can we get out of it? Move on to the next play,” Green said. “It’s been just so many games of frustration and I think we allow it to get to us, but we showed promise today. We fought. To me, that’s something we can progress from on tomorrow.”
While it’s true the Wizards pulled to within 106-105 with 2:30 remaining after trailing by 25 points — a positive sign for a team desperate for them — the all-star guards expended their legs through the second half in playing catch-up.
“It’s never good. I mean, you waste all your energy,” Wall said after the Wizards’ second straight game in which they had to climb out from a deficit of more than 20 points. “At the end of the game, [the opponents’] legs are good. They’re able to make tough shots, even though we had a great opportunity to have some good looks.”
Beal and Wall Both logged 42 minutes on the first night of a back-to-back set simply because the Wizards needed a win so badly and Coach Scott Brooks went with a lineup, any lineup, that showed signs of a pulse.
The small group of Wall, Beal, Austin Rivers — who is becoming the team’s best one-on-one defender — Kelly Oubre Jr. and Green created steals, scored on the break and found their three-point target (4 of 8 from beyond the arc). But after Wall scooped in a shot to pull the Wizards to within one, consecutive defensive gaffes led to Orlando’s decisive run.
Although Wall mentioned the downside in having to chase all game long, he didn’t blame fatigue for his three blown layup attempts near the end of the game. Wall took responsibility for shorting his baseline drive, which followed D.J. Augustin’s backbreaking triple with 2:11 to play, but he was adamant that he didn’t get a call during his next attempt.
Magic center Nikola Vucevic is not known as a shot blocker, but he was credited with stuffing Wall on the drive. Not so, Wall said. Vucevic tripped him, he argued, noting after the game that the moment still bothered him.
“It’s amazing to me that I drive to the basket as much and only get to shoot two free throws,” Wall said. “Always get an excuse when it comes to me attacking the basket, but when it comes to everybody else in this league, it seems like it’s never that.”
As he dressed in front of his stall, Wall’s frustration began to mushroom.
“Vucevic tripped me,” Wall said, then repeated a conversation he had with an official. “And he said: ‘I didn’t see him trip you. You just missed the layup.’ . . . Don’t get me wrong. If it’s great defense, I’ll give guys credit. But it’s unbelievable the way I attack the basket and I’m only getting two free throws. I’m not a jump shooter. I can make shots. I do, at times. But it’s frustrating because you look and see certain guys, like, who are they? Or what are they doing that they’re getting those calls. So, it’s always an excuse with me.”
After venting about the officials, Wall was asked if he sensed teammates are frustrated with each other. Wall denied it but as he continued to state his point, his words hinted at more frustration.
“Nah, we’re just trying to tell everybody to keep their head up, stay positive,” Wall said. “We just got to come out there and compete. That’s all you can do. One thing it is, I already said, you can’t preach or teach effort and heart. You got to go out there and do that. Until we find everybody in this locker room . . . that want to commit to that on the defensive end, it starts with me and everybody else, we’re going to stay in this hole.”
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