OKLAHOMA CITY -- The headway that the Wizards thought they'd made with their players-only meeting took a boot to the skull. Maybe their heart-to-heart with each other inspired them enough to beat the likes of the .500 Houston Rockets but they're not even close to the level of a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Monday, the Thunder torched them early. The Wizards made a move several times by getting stops and easy buckets on offense but ultimately it wasn't enough. Their help defense was late. Their rotations were slow. One hundred and fourteen points later, they had their 25th loss of the season.
"They came out and scored easy," said John Wall, who was isolated in the mid-post to open the game on the first three possessions by Russell Westbrook. "When we got opportunities to get them to miss some shots they got each offensive rebound. We were always playing from behind. ... We just couldn't get over the hump."
Westbrook passed the first time and got Serge Ibaka a jump shot in the lane. The next two were shots by Westbrook inside of 10 feet that were good. He had a triple-double after three quarters and finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
"They're at their best when he's play facilitator," Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. "He's going to get his points in transitions and random plays but when he's looking to pass and get his teammates involved, that's when they're tough to beat. That's why rotations need to be great. We were getting the ball out of his hands but we weren't able to get to the guys on the weak side or contest (Steven) Adams or Serge and those guys."
Durant was 9 of 18, Ibaka shot 8 of 12, Westbrook 8 of 13, Adams 4 of 5 and Enes Kanter 4 of 7. Oklahoma City dominated them inside the paint, 53-27 on overall rebounds and 18-2 with second-chance points.
"They scored 36 points in the first quarter. They got anywhere they wanted. Those points weren't even off offensive rebounds," said Jared Dudley, who called the players-only meeting after a 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets to address their defensive woes. "They were isolations. Durant, Westbrook getting buckets and us not really adapting to it once they score a couple. We needed to trap, we were late on it. We were timid from the beginning. When that happens with a team that's coming to end the game in the first quarter it sets the whole tone. From then on, we were playing an uphill battle."
Now that the Wizards are back to a pace-and-space team, the offensive side of what's taking place isn't a concern anymore. They're top five in the NBA in pace. It's all about figuring out their defense.
"We're not good enough defensively or have a lockdown defender where we can let someone go one-on-one on an island so you got to know the traps, know the rotations," Dudley said. "That's something we were timid doing early and really didn't do a good job throughout the whole game."