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Wizards are kicking themselves after 5-5 start, knowing opportunities have been squandered

The idea that the Wizards would get off to a commanding start to this season, benefitting from their continuity in an Eastern Conference where most made significant changes this summer, has not quite gone as planned.

Ten games do not make a season and the Wizards clearly have enough talent to end up with one of the top records in the league. But they currently sit an even 5-5, knowing at least a few of those losses should have resulted in wins against inferior teams.

It happened again on Tuesday night. The Wizards unraveled early on defense and couldn't complete a comeback against a 2-10 Dallas Mavericks team that entered with the worst record in the NBA. This defeat followed a road loss to the Lakers and a home loss to the Suns, two teams that like the Mavs are almost certainly going to fall short of the playoffs.

One loss to a bad team here and there is understandable. But the best NBA teams, the ones who earn the top seeds come April, generally take care of their business against lesser foes. Three of these types of losses is too many for a two-week span.

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Making matters worse is the way they feel they lost those games. In their eyes, it comes down to effort. That is fixable, of course, but a tough pill to swallow.

"It's just a matter of us looking at ourselves in the mirror," shooting guard Bradley Beal said. "See the things we accomplished last year and be hungry for it. We gotta get hungry again. I think we are great team but we got to act like we are a great team and go out there and prove it.”

An optimist could compare the Wizards' 5-5 record favorably to their 2-8 mark after 10 games last season. They were able to rally for a 49-win campaign and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. A similar trajectory this season might push the Wizards over the 50-mark, a stated goal for the organization.

What bothers the Wizards is that the same issues that were plaguing them this time last season are hurting them now. Their bench is a mixed bag and their defensive effort hasn't been consistent.

"We do this every year. This is not the first time," point guard John Wall said. "The only difference is that we are .500. That is the only difference in my opinion."

Like last season, the Wizards will likely heat up at some point and start rising the ranks in the Eastern Conference. That, however, may not fully negate what is adding up to a lost opportunity to bank some early wins. Plus, what if teams like the Pistons, Magic and Knicks keep winning, and the East is better than people predicted?

Speaking of predictions, between the Celtics and Cavaliers, many expected those teams to struggle early with all the offseason changes they made. The Celtics have been fine. They lead the East at 9-2, having won nine straight games. The Cavs, on the other hand, are just 5-6.

The Wizards could have built some early breathing room on a Cavs team they know will be there at the end in May in possibly June. Like last year, the Wizards' so-so start will be interesting to revisit come playoff seeding time.

It's far too early to draw major conclusions, but the Wizards are understandably frustrated with how things have begun through 10 games. Last year they had built-in excuses with a new coaching staff, nine new players and Wall on a minutes restriction. This time, it's on them and they know it.

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