After seven winless games, Randy Wittman chose to shake up his roster Saturday against Utah, putting Jordan Crawford's scoring and Jan Vesely's length on the court for the opening tip. The new look meant more of the same in terms of the result against the Jazz. Regardless, expect the same lineup Monday night when Washington hosts Indiana (6:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
Wittman said as much following Sunday's practice in part because of the Wizards' 15-2 start against Utah. However the lead was only two at 17-15 after the first quarter and Washington finished the game with 76 points, matching the team's season-low output.
“We had an opportunity to really build a nice cushion there, but we didn’t," said Wittman following Sunday's practice. "I thought they got off to a great start. We executed. We moved the ball, then we kind of, as I like to say, from an offensive (standpoint), we started taking shortcuts."
Wittman denied putting the 6-foot-11 Vesely with the starters as a matchup move to counter Utah's sizable frontcourt of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors. However, the coach cited the effective interior defensive pairing with Emeka Okafor plus small forward Trevor Ariza's presence as a benefit versus a Pacers frontcourt led by 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert, David West and Tyler Hansbrough.
"We’re going to face another team ... a beefy front line again," Wittman said. "I thought Jan and Oak to start the game battled Al and Favors well all night. That’s as a good a job from the defensive standpoint I think we can expect to do on Millsap. Trevor [Ariza] did a great job to start because they put him at the small forward. But even when he went to power forward spot, we did a good job."
Crawford led Washington against Utah with 20 points and Ariza scored all 16 of his points in the first half. Of the strong offensive start, Okafor said, "Just got out, was running and the ball was zipping, moving from one side of the court to the other. Everybody was moving and in rhythm."
Then at the end of the first and fourth quarters, the rhythm went away. Washington went without a field goal for over six minutes in the final quarter against Utah, Similar tale in the first meeting with the Pacers on Nov. 10 as the Wizards let a lead slip away following a 10-0 Indiana fourth quarter run.
"We’re right there. We’ve eliminated the slow starts, and we’ve gotten to good starts with a lead. Now, it’s about maintaining and keeping that energy throughout," Okafor said. "We’re playing very hard on defense keeping teams scoring low. We’re just having a harder time putting the ball in the bucket in some stretches."
In the first matchup Okafor scored 17 points while holding Hibbert to 3 of 15 from the field. Vesely played a scoreless four minutes.