What more can be said about the Wizards, after an improbable home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves with their playoff lives on the line? The only way they can probably make it now is by backing in by teams above them going into the tank or winning nine of their own last 10 games. Quite frankly, their track record this season suggests they'd waste such an opportunity anyway.
“This is a horrible loss, just plain and simple," said Bradley Beal of the 132-129 double-overtime loss Friday. "There is no explanation about it. We shouldn’t have lost that game.”
Coach Randy Wittman was almost screaming by the time his postgame conference ended, his voice rising with every answer he gave to each question about what went wrong. For starters, the Wizards allowed 62 first-half points to a 23-win team. The Timberwolves were allowed to shoot 53% overall for the game.
Even worse, his team's poise and decision-making down the stretch just wasn't up to par for a core unit that has advanced to the East semifinals during the previous two season. This has been a team that when the screws became tightened, they played better. Not anymore.
"We reluctantly attack the basket and force them to collapse. That's what happens when you get a five-man to guard your one to two man. We dribble sideways and try to get jump shots rather than attack the rim," Wittman said. "And it's something we've talked about all year long and work on it all the time but that's kind of what happened in those instances you're talking about. But it doesn't boil down to that. We have to be smarter time and score. Hey, listen, we had four clean looks at it. Four clean looks and two free throws to win the game.”
Wittman addressed multiple sequences in question there. The foul shots missed by Marcin Gortat with 15 seconds left in the second overtime could've given the Wizards a one-point lead. But Gortat is hardly the blame because they'd dug their own graves before that.
First, the Wizards were up 108-103 late in the fourth quarter when Ricky Rubio's jumper rimmed out for Minnesota. The long rebound led to a push by John Wall who had a 2-on-1 fast break with Beal. Instead of making a basket cut to make Zach LaVine defend at the rim, Beal stayed wide outside the three-point arc and missed. That produced a long rebound for Rubio who countered by finding Gorgui Dieng trailing for a dunk and the foul as Beal reached in. After he made the free throw the score was 108-106 with 1:05 left.
The next Wizards possession was a 24-second violation as the ball didn't touch the paint until Wall drove with three seconds left on the shot clock. After Nene made 1 of 2 foul shots for a 109-106 lead, Andrew Wiggins took a dribble handoff from Rubio and then received a screen from Karl-Anthony Towns. While Towns popped to the three-point arc at the top while Nene and Otto Porter contained the action, Gortat sank too deep in the lane and wasn't able to get out to Dieng in time as he buried just his fourth three-pointer of the season to tie the score to force the first overtime.
On the final possession of regulation, Wall, Beal and Porter had shot opportunities to win it but couldn't. Beal had a mismatch with Dieng on him at the arc at the end of the first overtime with a chance to beat him off the dribble but settled for a contested three-pointer that missed at the buzzer.
Still, they were got ahead 119-115 in the first overtime with 27.3 seconds left. LaVine set a back screen on Porter, escaped from Beal and drilled a three-pointer over the outstreched arm of Gortat on help defense. Beal made two foul shots. LaVine took a handoff from Dieng, who he used to screen Wall, and drained a three to tie it at 121 -- again over Gortat's help -- to send it into a second overtime.
Every time the Wizards created separation, they relaxed, got away from the principles that got them into the lead and squandered it. This loss comes on heels of a 122-101 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks at Verizon Center on Wednesday, a game they had in control for the most of three quarters. They allowed the Hawks so take a season-high 42 threes and make a season-high 17 of them. During the season-high five-game winning streak before these losses, the Wizards defended differently as they took away options.
"We have too many hangovers. We win four in a row, you lose five in a row. Then we come right back and win five in a row," said Wittman, who maintained the loss to Atlanta carried over.
The L.A. Lakers are next on Sunday followed by back-to-back games at the Golden State Warriors, who are 34-0 at home this season, and Sacramento Kings. Before the Wizards even get to matchups with the Phoenix Suns and L.A. Clippers to wrap their longest road stint of the season, they could already be looking ahead to 2016-17.