The Post Sports Live panel discusses whether the Wizards' blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers and a postgame locker room disagreement are cause for concern for the team's playoff chances. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

The Washington Wizards have 24 games remaining in the regular season, and they seem utterly incapable of winning any of them. Their strong start a distant memory, the Wizards are lost, and Coach Randy Wittman appears to be asleep at the wheel.

When a team that was on a fast track to joining the Eastern Conference’s elite can’t get anything right for months, the person in charge should come under the microscope. The debate about Wittman’s job performance figures only to intensify after the Wizards flopped again in Wednesday’s 97-77 road loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.

Bradley Beal still is sidelined, Paul Pierce sat out because of an injury and the Wizards were playing for the second time in as many nights. Regardless, being embarrassed by the Timberwolves — they have the league’s second-worst record — was another big setback for a franchise that was supposed to be way beyond this.

The Wizards have lost five straight and 10 of 12. After their 22-8 opening act, they’re 11-17 in their last 28 games. That’s a bad look.

Too often on offense, the Wizards fail to move the ball well. Defensively, Washington has been even worse. Watching opponents score on uncontested shots is not the best way to play.

What’s most disturbing, however, is that the Wizards have shown so little fight. The one-time scrappy bunch no longer displays a sense of urgency about, well, trying to win. Wittman has acknowledged the problem.

In the first game after the all-star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers stomped the Wizards by 38. With plenty of time to prepare for Cleveland, Washington appeared totally unprepared.

“We’ve lost that edge of nastiness that we played with,” Wittman said after the game. “We came out and felt, again, we’re going to warm our way into this. They had other ideas. They hit us in the mouth right from the jump ball and we couldn’t recover from it.”

That sums up the past two months.

One of the things I like about Wittman is that, throughout the Wizards’ arduous climb from laughable to respectable, he has mostly told it like it is. Wittman hasn’t revealed as much as Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden (who does?), but he speaks his mind. By criticizing the team’s approach after the Cleveland debacle, Wittman pointed the finger at himself.

Although the Cavaliers are surging — they’ve won 17 of 19 — it was inexcusable for the Wizards to be dismantled on their home court emerging from the break. They weren’t ready to play; that’s on Wittman.

The basketball lifer knows how it works: When things break, coaches must fix them. The Wizards are in pieces.

During an 82-game schedule, even good teams hit rough patches. The Wizards, however, aren’t merely in a slump. When things go this long, this is who you are.

For the Wizards to get it back together, Wittman must consider a lineup shakeup. Roles need to be redefined. The return of Beal, who is expected back soon, will give Wittman more lineup flexibility. And although tinkering always can be done with X’s and O’s, getting the Wizards’ heads right will be Wittman’s biggest challenge.

He has to persuade them to recommit to what worked: playing sound defense, sharing the ball and being tough. He’ll have to rely on his motivational skills.

Of course, the players have to expect more from themselves, too. Washington is a veteran team with a roster full of self-starters, though recent weeks have offered little evidence of that.

Perhaps management should have been more active at the trade deadline — the Wizards could have used help at wing forward, and Ramon Sessions wasn’t considered the best available backup point guard — but the team can play much better. The Wizards have proven that, though they won’t be all they can be unless Beal gets going.

Even when Beal has played, it was clear he hadn’t fully adjusted to being in a lineup with Pierce. Wing forward Trevor Ariza, who joined the Houston Rockets after being a key part of the Wizards’ success last season, is a defensive specialist and three-point shooter. Ariza can be effective without touching the ball a lot. Pierce needs it.

There are more than enough shots for Beal and Pierce. The problem is that Beal, while sidelined the first nine games, watched as the rest of the team learned how to work alongside Pierce. Over the past seven games, Beal has missed more time to rediscover his groove. You just can’t add a future Hall of Famer, albeit one nearing the end of his career, and expect everything to run smoothly.

Recently, things have been bumpy for the reserves as well. Outstanding through the first 30 games, the reserves have slowed down. Power forward Kris Humphries has been consistently good, but because opponents have stuck with swingman Rasual Butler near the three-point arc, he hasn’t been as effective. And 38-year-old point guard Andre Miller showed his age while declining rapidly, prompting the Wizards to trade him for Sessions. The situation is as bad as it seems.

For the Wizards and their fans, the only encouraging news is that there still is time for a turnaround. But it’s running out, and Wittman has a lot of work to do.

For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.