What changed about the Wizards from the first half, when they trailed by as many as 15 points to the Houston Rockets, to the second half when they made a run out of halftime to regain the lead? Strategically, it was absolutely nothing.
Less than four minutes into the third quarter, after two three-pointers by Jared Dudley, layups from Otto Porter and Bradley Beal and four points from John Wall, Washington was up 62-61.
"I'm getting tired of having to come in at halftime and light a fire under this team," coach Randy Wittman said after Wednesday's 109-103 loss to Houston at Verizon Center.
The Wizards (9-11) have had impressive wins on the road vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat only to take the luster away by dropping games like this to the Rockets (11-12) or the two-win L.A. Lakers.
It's odd pattern they had two seasons ago when Wall first led his team to the playoffs. The Wizards were a 44-win team in 2013-14 but had a sub-.500 record at home which was the worst of all 16 playoff teams. They were a better home team last season though they had plenty of dips in a 46-win season and are just 4-7 in 2015.
The Wizards entered this season talking about taking the next step which meant winning 50-plus games, getting a top four seed to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and advancing beyond the Eastern Conference semifinals. No one is talking about that now.
"It's a roller-coaster. We got to find a way to win a couple games in a row. If we win a couple games in a row we're right back into the mix," Wall said. "If we don't find a way to run four or five off in a row, we're going to be in the same position sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference."
The ball pressure was better which rattled Houston's backcourt. James Harden and Patrick Beverley combined for 12 of their 19 turnovers.
"We didn't change any strategy at halftime from a defensive standpoint. We got tougher," Wittman said. "We hit them and we got after them. The tide turned right away third quarter."
The Rockets were playing the second game of a back-to-back, having lost 110-105 at the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday when Harden was held to 10 points.
"We give a team courage to say, 'Oh, they don't want to play tonight.' Then we almost have to play a perfect game to win the game. We can say (we) came back and fought back but we're digging ourselves too big a hole playing too cool and soft at the start of the game," Wittman said. "It's as evident as night and day.
"Watch us on the road in Cleveland and Miami where we're the physical team for 48 minutes. Tonight we weren't. I think that's where we lost the game."
What's also evident is that the Wizards aren't responding the way a team with their experience should.
"I come out every day to try to do my best," said Marcin Gortat, who returned to pitch in 18 points and 13 rebounds after a three-game absence for personal leave. "I take my job really serious.
"We've been through that already last year. At some point we have to finally establish the way we play."