For nearly 11 minutes in the third quarter of their 107-76 trouncing at the hands of the mighty Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on Monday night, the Washington Wizards failed to convert a single field goal.
For four minutes, they didn’t score a point. They opened the period with 15 consecutive missed shots from the field. They missed layups. They missed midrange jumpers. They missed three-pointers. It was an exhibition in offensive incompetence or defensive brilliance, depending on your perspective.
By the time Kevin Seraphin’s hook shot with 1 minutes 2 seconds remaining ended their field goal drought, the Warriors had hiked their three-point halftime lead to an insurmountable 21 points.
It was not the first time the Warriors, featuring the NBA’s premier defense and best record, had suffocated an offense with such mercilessness. It wasn’t even the first time in the past month; the Toronto Raptors, another plunging Eastern Conference club, shot 1 of 19 from the field in the first quarter of their 113-89 debacle in Canada on Feb. 27. But there was a difference: According to Warriors backup center Marreese Speights, Golden State suspected the Wizards would fold.
“We just turned [it] up a little,” Speights said. “We knew if we hit them, if we got a couple stops, they would start arguing with each other and quit. We went out there with a good mind-set in the second half and we did it.”
Speights was not the only person questioning Washington’s effort in the aftermath of the bludgeoning. When Wizards Coach Randy Wittman addressed his players in the visitors’ locker room following the game, he wondered aloud why they haven’t been able to play to their potential for a full 48 minutes in recent weeks.
“It’s a troubling trend that we’ve had for the last 20, 25 games,” Wittman said. “We play one good half and just the exact opposite — awful — one half to the other. We’ve scored 64, and then in the next half scored 30. This has happened too much. Are we committed to playing? That’s what I asked our guys: ‘Are we committed?’ ”
The perplexing tendency has frequently surfaced this month. On March 6, the Wizards (40-31) nearly blew a 35-point third-quarter lead to the Miami Heat. On March 14, they needed to rally from a 21-point third-quarter deficit to top the lowly Sacramento Kings, who were without their second-leading scorer and playing their second game in as many nights at the end of an eight-game road trip. Two days later, Washington almost squandered a 25-point third-quarter advantage to the Portland Trail Blazers, who were also completing a taxing back-to-back.
While the Trail Blazers are one of the NBA’s top teams, Washington found out Monday that the Jekyll and Hyde impersonation usually won’t suffice against clubs in that stratosphere — particularly where the Warriors (57-13), playing at a historically high level, reside.
The Wizards were pleased with how they performed in the first half Monday. They were in the game at halftime despite Golden State outrebounding them by 13. Patch the problem on the glass, they concluded, and they could do what only two teams have done this season: beat the Warriors at home. Then the third quarter promptly torpedoed that notion.
“It’s just amazing how we can play well for one half,” Wizards guard Bradley Beal said, “and then just lay an egg in the second half.”
The final 24 minutes capped off a troubling conclusion to Washington’s four-game road trip. After an encouraging four-point win over the surging Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, the Wizards were routed three times in California — against the Los Angeles Clippers, Kings and Warriors — by an average of 22.6 points. They’ve lost 10 of their last 12 road games and haven’t beaten a team with a winning record away from Verizon Center since they topped the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 14.
“I look at the Clippers game as one game we couldn’t really control,” Wizards point guard John Wall said. “We played our defense. We played hard. They made shots. You give them credit for that game. The last two, I have no answer for that. That’s just disgusting.”
With 11 regular season games left on the schedule, the Wizards’ goal of securing home-court advantage is still within reach. They are two games behind the Raptors for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings and will open a five-game stay in the District, where they are 25-10 this season, on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.
“We have to regroup, bounce back and go home,” Wittman said. “Listen, like I said, we played a half of the way we wanted to play. I have to find the guys that are committed to do it for 48 now. That’s my job.”