The Wizards have dropped the last two games in the best-of-seven series against the Atlanta Hawks and now trail 3-2 heading into Friday's Game 6 in Washington. That means one more loss and summer vacation begins.
They've also won six of nine playoff games and easily could have triumphed in the last two. Pick up two more victories against the Hawks and the Wizards advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1979.
It's with that broad look at Washington's fortunes in the postseason with which coach Randy Wittman answered a question Thursday about possibly altering his frontcourt rotation. Specifically, what about using Kris Humphries considering Paul Pierce and Nene have struggled defending Atlanta's Paul Millsap.
Nene, Marcin Gortat and Drew Gooden are the true interior options Wittman has used against the Hawks' mobile frontcourt with Pierce picking up minutes as a stretch-four perimeter shooter.
"It's been successful," the coach said during a teleconference with reporters Thursday about his big man rotation.. "You don't want to change too much."
In fact, Wittman liked certain aspects of the matchup in Game 5 with Millsap, who is a dangerous threat because he can beat smaller players (Pierce) inside and maneuver for jumpers against beefy defenders (Nene) outside. Millsap scored 14 points on 6 of 14 shooting.
"I didn't have a problem with them trying to post because that's not their game," Wittman said. "If they want to do that, put isolation in, try to go against our mismatch, I don't have a problem with that at all. Now the flow of their offense isn't what it can be. Paul (Pierce) got scored on a couple of times, but what did Millsap end up with, 12, 14 points? That wasn't a problem."
Pierce, Nene and Gortat aren't falling out of the playing mix regardless. As for Gooden, the veteran forward has been off his game of late. On Wednesday, he played 12 minutes, his fewest in the playoffs this season. Gooden missed all four of his field goal attempts, falling to 1 for 10 over the last two games. Like the others, he doesn't offer much resistance against Millsap or Al Horford.
There are reasons why Gooden has remained in the rotation while Humphries and Kevin Seraphin mostly watch. His ability to shoot the 3-point helps open the court for John Wall's penetration while providing room for either Gortat or Nene to work inside.
We discussed during the regular season just how a lineup with Drew Gooden joining starters John Wall, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce and Marcin Gortat rocked. The Wizards went 12-1 in games that quintet played together (the lone loss came in double-overtime). In the playoffs, 4-0 (in fairness, we're not talking about substantial minutes with this unit, but wins are wins). That unblemished record remains because that unit did not receive any run together in Wednesday's loss.
If Wittman chooses to shake up the rotation, Gooden likely falls off. If Wittman believes what he said Thursday, expect the coach to roll with what's been working overall in the postseason.