Wizards

Is Whisenhunt status shaky as bad season worsens?

201212021534560752815-p2.jpeg

Is Whisenhunt status shaky as bad season worsens?

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals offense has been bad this season, but never worse than it was on Sunday.

Its performance in the 7-6 loss to the New York Jets was among the worst in the team's history, and that's saying something for a franchise that's had a lot of bad Sundays.

The team had five first downs, tied for fewest in franchise history, was 0 for 15 on third-down conversions and gained 137 yards, 40 of them on a fake punt. The Cardinals gained 22 yards in the second half.

Still, coach Ken Whisenhunt stayed with rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley, refusing to reinsert John Skelton, benched by the coach three games ago.

Now the Arizona losing streak has reached eight games, matching the franchise's longest in 68 years.

Exceedingly popular among fans for bringing the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season, and to the NFC West crown the following year, Whisenhunt finds himself the subject of the fans' wrath. Speculation is mounting that he might not return for the final year of his contract.

He said Monday that he has too much else on his mind to be concerned about his job status.

``It takes enough energy focused in trying to win, to turn it back around,'' Whisenhunt said. ``You can't worry about things you can't control.''

Team President Michael Bidwill, the owner's son, has not spoken publicly about the situation.

Whisenhunt is among the highest-paid coaches in the NFL, due to make $5.7 million next year, and the Bidwill family is not known for tossing around that kind of money, although the ownership has proven to be far more generous recent seasons, especially since the University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006.

Arizona has sold out every home game since then, but the fan base is shaky and that string is in serious doubt, if not for the next home game against Detroit, then certainly for next year.

The team's offensive woes this season have stemmed in large part from injuries, particularly to left tackle Levi Brown, quarterback Kevin Kolb and, most recently, center Lyle Sendlein, who was sorely missed against the Jets.

Yet with the defense playing so well, it's particularly maddening to fans to watch the offense stagnate.

Lindley completed 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards with one interception and, obviously, no touchdowns. Twenty-three of those yards came on a pass to Larry Fitzgerald the second play of the game. Fitzgerald never caught another pass all day.

On Monday, Whisenhunt wouldn't commit to staying with Lindley in next Sunday's game at Seattle, against one of the NFL's best defenses in one of the league's toughest environments for a visiting team.

``We've got to look at it with the players today and understand why we had the breakdowns we did,'' he said, ``why we weren't successful on some of these plays, and then we will decide from that point.''

The best scenario would be the return of Kolb, who was the quarterback when the team got off to a 4-0 start but who went down with a rib injury that has sidelined him for six games. Kolb has practiced on a limited basis the past two weeks but the injury, to cartilage at the top of his rib cage, is particularly iffy.

Asked if there was any realistic chance of Kolb playing in Seattle, Whisenhunt said, ``the only way we will know is when he can do it in practice.''

``He is making progress,'' Whisenhunt said. ``Until we can get out there and see that he can make the throws and be able to do those kinds of things, then we'll know.''

Skelton, who beat out Kolb for the starting job in the preseason only to go down with an ankle injury in the opener, said he hopes Whisenhunt hasn't lost confidence in him. Skelton said he was ready to come into the game whenever the coach told him to on Sunday. As things got worse on the field, his desire to play grew, he said.

``Every bit of my being I wanted to play, that was going into the week, too. It's not just on Sunday,'' Skelton said. ``I think anyone in the locker room wants to play. No one wants to sit on the sideline. When you see things going the way they did, it kind of makes you champ at the bit a little more.''

Whisenhunt said he thought about switching quarterbacks, but decided Lindley gave the team the best chance of winning. Others watching the game found that conclusion hard to understand.

The team that did switch quarterbacks, the Jets, mounted the game's only touchdown drive with backup Greg McElroy at the controls.

Whisenhunt said he understands the fans' ire about the quarterback decision.

``But we didn't help Ryan out very much yesterday,'' the coach said. ``We had a lot of areas where we had problems. We are looking for the right combination to be more effective offensively. We talked about on the sideline, we talked about what was going on in the game, and we felt it was a combination of a number of things, not just the quarterback.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

Quick Links

Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

The Toronto Raptors' best player has become a serious problem for the Washington Wizards, as they now face a 3-2 series deficit and the bleak reality that one more loss means their season is over.

DeMar DeRozan, who began this first round series with a modest 17 points in Game 1, has since raised his game to a new level to beyond even what we have seen in the past. In Games 2-5, DeRozan has averaged 31.8 points, including his 32-game outburst in Game 5 that tilted the series in Toronto's favor.

DeRozan is averaging 28.8 points through five games against the Raptors. That's up considerably from his 22.5-point career playoff average.

DeRozan scored his 32 points in Game 5 with efficiency. He shot 12-for-24 from the field and even made three of his four shots from three.

He didn't even need the free throw line like he normally does. DeRozan shot six free throws, less than his regular season average.

The Wizards are having trouble with DeRozan particularly in the first half. DeRozan is averaging 14.8 first-half points during the playoffs, second only to LeBron James. 

DeRozan had 20 points by halftime in Game 5.

"DeMar was in his element tonight," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He got it going early. It was kind of hard to shut him off."

The Wizards are paying for disrespecting DeRozan's three-point shot. He shot just 31.2 percent from long range in the regular season, but is shooting threes at a 45.5 percent clip in the playoffs.

If DeRozan is knocking them down from outside, his offensive game is as complete as just about anyone in the NBA. He has shown in this series an impressive ability to not only get to the rim, but finish through contact or draw fouls.

DeRozan does a good job of maintaining body and ball control going straight up against Wizards' big men and is often rewarded by the referees. He shot a playoff career-high 18 free throws in Game 4.

The Wizards are actually doing a decent job of taking away his midrange shots, which usually account for much of his points. Though DeRozan is hitting an impressive 66.7 percent from 5-to-9 feet, up from his season clip of 47.6, his numbers are down from further out.

DeRozan is shooting 40 percent from 10-to-14 feet out, down from 41.5 percent in the regular season, and just 28.6 percent from 15-to-19 feet, down from 43.7.

DeRozan is hurting the Wizards from long range and within nine feet of the rim. He is taking what the Wizards are giving him and Washington has to adjust.

"We’ve gotta pretty much get it out of [his] hands. Make sure we take care of everybody else," Oubre said.

The Wizards should look to how the defended him in Game 4 as a good example of how to limit his impact. DeRozan had 35 points, but required 29 shots from the field and 18 free throws to get there. 

Washington forced DeRozan into an inefficient night and forced others to try to beat them. The result was the Wizards' best defensive game overall, as the Raptors scored a series-low 98 points.

DeRozan isn't the only defensive concern for the Wizards as they look ahead to Game 6 on Friday. Backup point guard Delon Wright scored 18 points for the second time this series and Toronto hit 11 threes in the game.

The Wizards held the Raptors to just seven threes in Game 4 and it was no coincidence they won that game. They have to lock down the perimeter and, as this series has shown, that includes DeRozan even though he isn't known for making threes.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WALL IS BOYCOTTING DRAKE'S MUSIC DURING SERIES

WIZARDS WENT ICE COLD IN 4TH QUARTER OF GAME 5

WALL HAS REACHED PEAK FORM AMAZINGLY QUICK

Quick Links

Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 108-98 in Game 5 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Ice cold: When the Wizards needed it most, their offense failed them. With John Wall running the show, they can traditionally score with the best of them. But from the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter, they went scoreless for a stretch of three minutes and 49 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Raptors converted turnovers into points to close the game on a 14-5 run. The Wizards shot brick after brick from long range and missed 11 of their last 15 shots. It was a shocking collapse in a game that had been going well for the Wizards.

By beating the Wizards in Game 5, the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead which historically means they have nearly an 83 percent chance of winning the series. Those aren't good odds for the Wizards, who can look at one area of the court to blame.

The Wizards made only five threes on 26 attempts. The Raptors, conversely, went 11-for-25 (44%) from the perimeter. The Wizards' five threes were their fewest in a game since Jan. 12.

DeRozan was a killer: As has been the case this entire series, DeMar DeRozan led the charge for Toronto. The perennial All-Star came out on fire with 20 points in the first half alone.

This time, it wasn't just free throws. He was 4-for-4 at the half, but 7-for-13 from the field and 2-for-2 from three. Usually, threes aren't his game.

DeRozan kept it up in the second half to score 32 points on 12-of-24 from the field. That's a pretty efficient night.

Otto looked a bit hurt: Otto Porter, who was held to nine points and four rebounds, didn't appear to be moving very well. He was running around with a limp, which suggests his right lower leg strain is still bothering him.

Head coach Scott Brooks said last week that Porter is 100 percent, but that doesn't seem like the case, unless there was some sort of setback in the time since. Porter, however, is such a smart player and such a good shooter that he can still make the most of his time on the court.

Solid start: The Wizards aren't used to playing well in the first quarter this series. They entered Game 5 with an average deficit of -7.2 points in the first quarter. In this game, however, they led by one point after one.

That was thanks to a buzzer-beater by John Wall (26 points, nine assists, nine rebounds). Ian Mahinmi got the offensive rebound and it set up Wall for a last-second shot. He got to one of his spots and sent it in:

It was just the second time in five games this series that the Wizards have been leading after one. The other time was Game 3, when the Wizards beat the Raptors handily to earn their first win.

The Wizards, though, couldn't finish. They also couldn't protect the ball. At least Wall couldn't, as he committed seven turnovers, one short of his playoff career-high.

Backup PGs: The Raptors again played without point guard Fred VanVleet, their best bench player and a guy who is arguably one of the best backup point guards in basketball. The loss has been evident for the most part, despite his replacement Delon Wright doing a solid job, including with 18 points in Game 5.

On Wednesday, Washington's backup point guard also shined. Despite not playing a single game during the regular season, Ty Lawson continues to make smart plays and create scoring opportunities for others.

He had four assists in this game and made one of the best plays of the night. Check out this move he put on to set up Ian Mahinmi:

And this dude was playing in China like two weeks ago? If he keeps this up, there will be an easy case to make that the Wizards should re-sign him for next season.

Clearly, they want Tomas Satoransky to play more off the ball and the coaching staff hasn't gained full trust in him. Lawson and Satoransky could make a solid reserve backcourt if they have some time to develop some chemistry.

Up next: The Wizards and Raptors are back at it on Friday night in Washington for Game 6. The tipoff time has not been announced, but the game will be aired on NBC Sports Washington.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WALL HAS REACHED PEAK FORM AMAZINGLY QUICK

WALL IS BOYCOTTING DRAKE'S MUSIC DURING SERIES

OUBRE IS HELPING THE WIZARDS WIN IN MANY WAYS