The positive to be drawn from the Wizards' win over the Phoenix Suns is just that -- they won. But it took a furious fourth quarter to put away a 20-win team that entered with a four-game losing streak.
"First half we got hurt more on 50/50 balls, second shots. We didn't do a good enough job, gave them extra opportunities," coach Randy Wittman said after the 106-99 win that ended the Wizards' two-game losing streak with one game left on the five-game trip. "They had 27 second-chance points."
With faint hopes of making the postseason, the Wizards (37-39) still aren't playing well enough. They haven't been above since .500 when they were 6-5 in November.
A win at the L.A. Clippers on Sunday will make for a winning record on the road at 3-2 as they head back to Verizon Center. But they're currently 2.5 games behind the Indiana Pacers (39-36) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. And since they lost the tiebreaker to Indiana, they'll need to be one game better to get the nod.
John Wall (22 points, 10 assists) was two rebounds shy of a triple-double, getting 12 of his points in the first quarter. The tone of the game changed in the fourth quarter because of what they did defensively.
"We just started defending," Wall said. "They were killing us on the boards all night. ... When we play defense and we're locked in, we're a totally different team. That's the only reason we won this game. We started to get defensive stops."
Still, there were a few things to not like about how Washington played:
- Wall's quotes spell out the problem. The Wizards can't just turn it on and play lockdown defense for 12 minutes for one quarter. All teams will have their lapses, but there has to at least be a commitment for 48. This is good enough to beat the Suns without Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren, Brandon Knight or Jon Leuer. Not the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets who are on the remaining schedule.
- Bradley Beal (21 points) only had two shots in the first quarter and didn't make his first bucket until two minutes into the second quarter as the only starter on the floor. For one of the NBA's most promising young backcourts, that's glaring. Beal's first bucket playing with Wall came on an assist at 9:25 of the third.
- Points in the paint for the Suns (44) were indicative of their ability to get in the lane and get extra chances on putbacks. In the first 40 minutes, the worst team in the league (more than 16 per) only had 10 turnovers. It wasn't until eight minutes were left hat they fumbled the ball six more times.
"We just picked up our defensive intensity," said Markieff Morris, who had 21 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in his return to where he'd played for four-plus seasons before being traded to Washington two months ago. "The same way we're supposed to play at the beginning of the game, that's how we played in the fourth. We made some big shots and got some big stops."
Again, why did it take so long? This team has proven they're not good enough to get away with this against quality teams and the truth is that the Suns aren't one of them.