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Even at 0-2, Wizards defense much improved


Even at 0-2, Wizards defense much improved

The Wizards slow-starting offensive late game execution has received most of the attention during the team's 0-2 start.

There is a silver lining and one's that not the professional equivalent of saying "good job, good effort." Washington's defensive effort has been much improved over last season and in each game, allowing the team to rally despite those scoring woes.

To date the Wizards are allowing 91.5 points per game, tied for fifth in the league. Last season Washington gave up 98.4 points, 20th overall.

The Cavaliers and Celtics shot a combined 44.2 percent from the field, putting Washington's defense 11th overall in that category. In 2011-12, Washington allowed teams to knock down 45.3 percent of their attempts which are 18th in the league.

Quoting league-wide statistics this early into the season as any sort of indicator is likely foolish, but Wizards coach Randy Wittman might not agree based on what he observed live against Boston and in review.

"Defensively, it was fantastic," Wittman said. "Second half it was, even breaking it down, it was beautiful."

Trailing 26-12 after the first quarter, in part because they missed 13 of their initial 14 shots, the Wizards outscored the Celtics in each of the final three quarters, and overall 74-63. Boston made half of its 24 attempts during those initial 12 minutes. Over the last three quarters they shot just 40 percent (24 of 60).

After Kevin Seraphin's hook shot late in the fourth quarter put the Wizards ahead for the first time, they held Boston to a single 3-point field goal over the next two minutes and 54 seconds.

Alas, that one Paul Pierce bomb was enough to down the offensively out-of-sync Wizards, who failed to score on their final four possessions.

The Wizards' retooled roster reflects the franchise's offseason emphasis, both in terms of those now here - Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and others - and those who are not. Washington held Boston to 89 points in the Wizards second game of the season. It took them 10 games last season before holding an opponent under 90 points.

The overall defensive effort in both games - Washington took the lead against Cleveland after trailing by 12 entering the fourth quarter - was enough to have Washington's coach take a positive spin.

"Defensively, gave us a chance in both these first two games a chance to win. We didn't have a whole lot of that at this time last year." Wittman said. "If we didn't score points, - pffft - we didn't have a chance for our defense to win the game. Now that's a credit to them, doing and staying in it, being as actively as they are defensively. Now we have to get that moving over to the offense."

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 

The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall remains out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.


The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.

The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home-court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.


By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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