Despite playing a tired Utah Jazz team on the second night of a back-to-back, and a couple of tweaks to the starting lineup, it wasn't enough to get the Wizards into the win column. The Wizards lost 83-76 to the Jazz on Saturday night at Verizon Center. The loss drops the Wizards to 0-8, which ties last season's start – the worst in franchise history.
Once again the Wizards managed to make the game competitive through three quarters before fading down the stretch.
"I think we could have won more than half the games we played," said Bradley Beal, who scored all of his six points in the first half. "That's just my opinion. Our intensity is there, our competitiveness is there, all the way up to the fourth quarter. That's what really kills us."
Down by just two points at the end of the third quarter, 65-63, it was yet another abysmal offensive performance in the final quarter, when the Wizards scored just 13 points, and sealed their eighth loss of the season.
Prior to the game, coach Randy Wittman told reporters that he was ready to "push a few buttons" in an effort to try to get that elusive first win. Initial speculation was that Wittman might start newly-signed point guard Shaun Livingston over A.J. Price.
Instead, Wittman stuck with Price, and instead made the switch from Beal to Jordan Crawford at shooting guard, and from Trevor Booker to Jan Vesely at power forward.
The change produced a little bit of a spark to start the game, as the Wizards got off to a 15-2 lead in the first quarter. The Jazz answered back with a 13-2 run, making the score an anemic 17-15 in favor of Washington at the end of the first quarter.
"As a coach, you're trying to think of different things to try find some balance," Wittman said. "We don't gave any balance right now. In a perfect world I'd like eight or nine guys and play them every night. Sometimes right now, I'm not knowing who's going to play."
The shooting woes continued for both teams throughout the game, with the Wizards shooting 36.5 percent and the Jazz 37.8 percent. Only two Washington players scored in double figures, Crawford (20) and Trevor Ariza (16). Al Jefferson (20) led the way for Utah, and Gordon Hayward added 15.
The Wizards were also crushed on the boards by the Jazz, who out-rebounded them 60 to 44, including 26 on the offensive glass, and managed to get to the free throw line only 12 times to Utah's 27.
"It's tough," Wittman said. "I don't know how else to put it. It's just discouraging that we can't break through but we've got to find a way. We've got to play with confidence, and belief in yourself and in each other."
Wittman admitted the team is running low on confidence on the offensive end, even though they are playing well on the defensive side of the ball. They held the Jazz to 83 points, their lowest point total of the season.
"We've just got to get on the board so we can relax and play basketball," Livingston said. "When we have a drought, we've got to find a way to get buckets and get to the free throw line. That's what good team's do."
But the Wizards have a long way to go to get into that category, and frustrated Verizon Center fans are making their voices heard.
With just over three minutes left to play, and the Wizards down by nine, fans began to voice their displeasure with the Wizards' play with chorus of boos, followed by chants of "Fire Wittman." With just over two minutes left during a Wizards timeout, they began to exit in droves.
"It doesn't affect us, we're professionals," Price said of the booing. "But it's good to know that they care. They want us to play better. They believe in us, they're here in the seats. So we need to take that upon our shoulders and perform better for them."
In yet another odd moment for Verizon Center fans looking for any reason to cheer, Jazz forward Marvin Williams missed two free throws in the closing minutes of the game, which entitles ticket holders free sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A. The fans were screaming so loudly for the sandwiches, they failed to notice that the Wizards didn't even grab the rebound after Williams' missed foul shots.
As the game came to a conclusion, a lone fan sitting behind the press box stood up and shouted a statement that summed up the entire season so far.
"Ted," he shouted, "We deserve better."
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