Wizards

Wizards look to avoid losing momentum before All-Star break

Wizards

Bradley Beal said some of the toughest games of the season are right before and after the break around the All-Star Game. 

And that’s not even taking into account the opponent.

After an ugly 125-111 loss to the Grizzlies on Tuesday, the Wizards have just one game left before a six-day break due to the All-Star Game. And it will come against one of the best teams in the NBA, one that beat the Wizards by 19 points just over a week ago.

“The toughest games are the ones right before the break and right after the break because everybody is so looking forward to getting out of here, doing whatever they need to do for break,” Beal said. “You have to understand great teams, they embrace these times and these wins right before the break, serving as momentum for the second half of the year. This team kicked our ass a few weeks ago, the Clippers, so if we don’t have that same mindset, they’re going to do it again.”

The Wizards (13-20) have little room for error, considering how poorly they played to start the season. As of Tuesday night, they are 2.5 games behind the Hornets for the 8th spot in the East and are 13th in the conference. 

There’s a clear path to rise in the conference, considering they’re four games out of the fourth seed. The problem is, they’re also 4.5 games ahead of the last place Pistons in the East.

 

“I think the big thing for us is, we all realize every single game is important because we’ve been playing well for 10 or so games, but there were so many games before that,” Robin Lopez said. “We know what kind of team we are, so going forward we just have to make sure every single quarter we’re all holding each other accountable, we’re all pushing each other to be the best we can, especially on the defensive end.”

Tuesday ended a stretch for the Wizards with improved defensive play and few mistakes, as they turned the basketball over 22 times and allowed Ja Morant to hang 35 points on 11-of-18 shooting.

“We have to understand we can’t take a game for granted,” Beal said. “We’re not in a position to give away games. We still haven’t done anything. Yeah, we won some games, but tonight we had bad habits. We have to be a lot better, we have to close out games and approach every game like it’s your last.”

A loss to the Clippers on Thursday would mean the Wizards, at 13-21 and eight games below .500. They would be in a hole with their final 38 games to play in a little more than two months. 

That doesn’t make it impossible by any means, especially considering how much their defense had improved before Tuesday. But a win over the Clippers, especially considering how poorly they played last time out, would go a long way to giving the Wizards some much-needed momentum headed into the break.

“Don’t even think about that (last) game, throw it out the window,” Beal said. “We know that wasn’t us, that's not how we play. Understand they are a championship-caliber team, they’re going to come out and smack us in the mouth if we’re not ready to go. We’ve got to have the same approach that we’ve had the last couple games before this.”