The first real test for the Wizards came when they had four games in five nights and failed miserably. They lost each, including three by double-digits. They're in the middle of their second serious test and have a chance to come out with a winning record on the road against Western Conference teams if they can beat the Memphis Grizzlies tonight (CSN+, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 8 p.m. ET).
That would put the Wizards at 2-1 with the final game coming Wednesday at the San Antonio Spurs, who they beat 102-99 at Verizon Center earlier this season. Such a run would be significant because the Wizards (10-12) not only would be back at .500 but they will have accomplished it without starting shooting guard Bradley Beal who is out at least until Christmas.
"Yes," John Wall said, after the Wizards lost a game they had in hand vs. the New Orleans Pelicans and before defeating the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, about winning the next three. "Without Brad here, if we compete like we did tonight, we give ourselves a chance. Guys got to make plays. To be in this league, to be a star, you have to be able to make plays down the stretch. I missed some shots. A couple guys missed some shots but we had looks that we like. They making shots and we missing shots we're going to lose the game in the fourth quarter no matter what the lead is."
The Wizards blew a 97-90 fourth-quarter lead to the Pelicans before losing 107-105. They led by 21 in Dallas and still had a double-digit lead with less than four minutes left only to tighten up down the stretch. Wall's free throws kept the Wizards at a distance to win 114-111.
The quicker-pace offense is working for the Wizards. Defensively, however, they're taken a significant step backward particularly when it comes to three-point shooting allowed.
"Offensively we're doing well. We're scoring over 100 points a game which is good for us," said Garrett Temple, who replaced Beal in the starting lineup. "If we play the defense we're capable of, that we've been playing for the last few years. We haven't been that's why we're under .500."
The expectation that the Wizards would be as good on defense as they've been the last three seasons, when they were top 10 in fewest points allowed, might not be realistic. The extra scoring punch, in theory, should make up for that difference. But without Beal (leg), Nene (calf), Drew Gooden (calf), Alan Anderson (ankle) and Kris Humphries (ankle) they don't have as many scoring options.
The Wizards have given up at least 100 points in their last seven games. They're 3-4.
"We're not a team that can try to outscore people. We tried it so far this season. It rarely happens. We always end up losing them close games when we should be winning," Wall said. "It also gets back to we got to make plays, make shots in the fourth quarter. When we beat Miami, we beat Cleveland we made threes in the fourth quarter at least three or four. The games we lose against Houston, we probably make one out of six, one out of seven. You got to be able to make those shots because those teams are making them. It's defending. We know what it is."
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