Until their 116-110 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday night, the Wizards had not lost three consecutive games so far this season. Three times before they had lost two straight, each time rebounding quickly with a win.
So, for them a three-game losing streak is technically a new low. After a 10-3 start to this season, the standards are higher than in previous years.
They are still 14-11, even after losing four of their last five games, and the sky is by no means falling. But three straight losses are enough to get star guard Bradley Beal mentioning the proverbial panic button and how he's not ready to press it.
"I don't hit the panic button. I won't hit the panic button and I don't think anybody here is hitting the panic button," he said. "But there is a sense of urgency that needs to increase from everybody just in terms of our approach, our effort. We each just gotta give a little bit more effort. We have the skill and the talent, that's never a question or a problem."
The final score of the Wizards' loss to the Pacers helped mask the fact they trailed by 17 points in the first half. The same happened the night before when they went down 25 to the Raptors. In their first loss to begin this streak, to the Cavaliers, they faced a 36-point deficit.
The common thread has been slow starts, but the reasons for them have varied. On Monday in Indiana, 10 turnovers in the first half did them no favors. They also didn't provide enough resistance on defense, as the Pacers shot 52.4%.
Beal and others seem to agree that the proper energy and assertiveness haven't been there early in games. Opposing teams are coming out with more zip and by the time the Wizards are waking up, it's too late.
There is also another intangible Beal believes has been missing. It's the simple fun that comes with playing winning basketball.
"We've gotta get back to the joy of the game. That's something that I've been trying to find individually over the last whole year, I would say," Beal said, referencing his slow scoring start to the season (by his standards).
"Finding that joy, finding your juice, getting your rhythm back. Once you do that, you more or less take off. We've just hit a little adversity from early in the year and now we have to figure out how do we climb out of that."
The Wizards began this season with their best start in decades and what stood out most was the various ways they pulled out victories. They won despite key players being in and out of the lineup. They beat good teams, both at home and on the road. They won when Beal wasn't playing well.
Those traits weren't seen by the Wizards in recent years, even last season when they made the playoffs. All of it gave hope that their initial success was sustainable, but Beal seems to have felt it wasn't.
"If we really want to be this really good team, really great team, we've gotta figure out ways to win consistently. I think the way we were winning in the past wasn't sustainable and it's showing now," he said.
Though he didn't elaborate further on that point, he did express hope that this current stretch will help them learn how to win with more regularity down the line. The start to this season was in many ways a best-case scenario, but that was never going to be the case for the entire year.
Sooner or later, they were going to hit some speed bumps. Now losers of eight of their last 12, they are in the middle of an extended slide. During this stretch, the Wizards are 23rd in offensive rating (107.0) and 27th in defensive rating (114.2). They are 26th in points per game (102.3) and 26th in rebounds per game (46.8).
As bad as things have been for this nearly three-week stretch, Beal believes they will come out of it better on the other side.
"I love the fact we're in this position because this helps build our character, this helps us as a team moving forward, down the line. Granted, we don't love being here, but I think it's necessary. It's definitely humbling us in a way we need to figure out how to be better as a team," he said.