To allow an average of 121 points a game and come back to Verizon Center at 4-1 from a Western Conference trip defies conventional wisdom. But the Wizards' methods in winning were indeed unconventional.
Monday, they fell 119-104 at the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 17th highest-scoring offense in the NBA.
"Probably the biggest thing is getting back to our defensive concepts, getting back to our rhythm on defense," said Bradley Beal after the Wizards allowed Minnesota to shoot 52.3% from the field and almost 50% from three-point range. "We're out of whack a little bit. We're not communicating. ...We got to break those habits."
The Wizards (41-25) had to mount comebacks of 11 points to the Phoenix Suns (after leading by 22 themselves), 15 to the Sacramento Kings and 21 to the Portland Trail Blazers. They won all three, but it's too much to ask for them to do when they're playing five games in seven days.
They return to D.C. and will be off Tuesday before a two-game homestand that starts Wednesday vs. the Dallas Mavericks, who beat them in their second game of 2017 before the Wizards won 18 of 21 going into the All-Star break.
Portland shot 51.1% from the field and 50% from three. The Denver Nuggets were 52.9% overall and 46.4% from deep. The Suns shot 50% and 48.1% on threes. The Kings were 47.8% overall and 54.5% with the long ball.
Those percentages are nothing short of alarming. But the Wizards were able to overcome their defensive ineptness with superior offense. Monday, that spigot halted. They only shot 42.9% and just 26.9% from three.
That they were in range to pull out a flawless five-game road trip for the first time in franchise history speaks to their offensive potency. But 102-97 would be as close as the Wizards got in Minneapolis. Then Karl-Anthony Towns made sure there'd be no comeback as he led a 17-7 run.
"It was just glimpses tonight. We would play good defense two possessions in a row and then we'd go on a drought for a couple of possessions. They'd go on a 7-0 run," Beal said. "It was inconsistency with not being able to guard. It wasn't just one person. It was everybody."
Sometimes it was Wall gambling for steals too often. Other times it was Marcin Gortat not being aggressive enough in his help. Or Otto Porter was getting caught under screens against red-hot shooters.
The Wizards can play elite defense, which is how they beat the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics in key matchups recently. For some reason, when they play teams with bad records, their defense lowers in its intensity, too.
That won't be an issue for the playoffs, of course, but it's a major one as they're trying cement themselves as no worse than No. 2 seed in the conference.
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