The Wizards' 2016-17 is off to an inauspicious start with three straight losses, including their 113-103 defeat to the Toronto Raptors in their home opener on Wednesday night. In each of the three games the Wizards have played they have fallen to teams that made the playoffs the year before. And in all three games the Wizards had a chance to win.
In their season opener against the Hawks, they had a one-point lead with under 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. In their overtime loss to the Grizzlies, they were up eight with less than four minutes in regulation. And on Wednesday, they were tied with the Raptors with just over six minutes remaining before DeMar DeRozan went off and sealed their fate.
A made shot here or a defensive stop there could have easily changed where the Wizards stand right now. But now they sit 0-3 with another matchup against the Hawks (3-1) set for Friday.
"It's still early. Don't count us out," forward Otto Porter said. "But at the same time, we need to take and learn from these early games and try to fix things. Especially closing games like that, we've gotta find some way to push over the top."
Wednesday's loss to Toronto followed comments made by center Marcin Gortat that the Wizards were facing a must-win situation after dropping their first two games on the road. That reflected the team's sense of urgency, though others would not have chosen those same exact words.
"We're alright. We're fine. I don't know why he said it was a must-win. We want to win the home opener, yeah, but it's not a must-win," point guard John Wall said. "We've gotta find a way to get out of this slump and we can't do it with nobody but the 15 or 16 guys in this locker room and the coaching staff."
The feeling among Wizards players is that their 0-3 record doesn't accurately portray what they are capable of as a team. This is a squad that made the playoffs in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and last season finished a respectable 41-41. They expect to win and still be playing well beyond the regular season.
"It don't reflect us. This is not the kind of start we want to get out to. We worked hard in training camp, we worked hard in practice. This is not a testament to what our team is," Wall said.
"Only we can get out of it and show people what we really are. We've gotta compete and go out there and win. We're not going to be a team that can outscore people. We can score the ball, but when we defend and rebound the ball, we're a great team. Until we start doing that for 48 minutes, we'll stay in this slump that we're in."
Like Wall, shooting guard Bradley Beal is not letting the losses start to weigh on him quite yet.
"We're still positive. It's still early. We wanted this game bad and nobody's happy. I think that's a positive in itself. I think overall as a team, our spirits are still good. It's still early. We need to focus more and I think we're going to be ready on Friday," he said.
The Wizards have already faced three teams that made last year's postseason and moving forward it won't get much easier. Four of their next five games are against playoff teams, including the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers.