It’s rare that an NBA coach actually looks forward to playing back-to-back games. But Wizards coach Randy Wittman wanted to erase the memory of his team’s 38-point drubbing at the hands of the New York Knicks on Friday night as soon as possible.
Wittman joked before the game that he had no plans to watch the game tape or show it to his team, and had in fact left it at LaGuardia Airport.
So, with a much easier opponent in the the lottery-bound Cavaliers (20-38), the Wizards were hoping to pull off a win and restore a little bit of the confidence they had gained in consecutive wins over Charlotte and Orlando earlier this week. But they fell short once again, losing 98-89 on Saturday night at Verizon Center.
The listless and lifeless performance drops the Wizards to 14-46.
“We never had any control of the game,” Wittman said. “We were playing from behind, or playing catch-up the whole game, even when we did grab a lead. We lost our sense of urgency, I don’t know why. I’m going to try and find out.”
John Wall also had an easier opponent, guarding back-up guard Donald Sloan instead of Kyrie Irving, the likely Rookie of the Year, who missed the game with a sprained right shoulder. Wall scored 19 points with nine assists.
“Everybody was mad about how yesterday [Friday] went, but we just didn’t come with any energy,” Wall said. “If you love the game of basketball, you might be tired, but you’ve got to finish out the season strong. I know all of us are upset about losing.”
The Wizards are still without Nene and Trevor Booker, who have now missed nine games with left foot plantar fasciitis. Nene’s recovery is coming along a bit more quickly than Booker’s, and Nene could make an appearance before the end of the season, which has six games remaining.
Wittman has praised the effort of his bench players in recent games, even joking that the team should consider putting everyone on 10-day contracts next season.
But against the Cavaliers, it was the Wizards’ starters who scored the team’s first 56 points before the ice-cold bench players finally found an offensive rhythm late in the third quarter. Cartier Martin connected on a layup, and the rest of the bench players finally got in sync, especially James Singleton.
Singleton got the hot hand late in the game, ending with 13 points on 6 of 10 from the floor, and helped keep the Wizards in the game in the fourth quarter, before the Cavaliers opened up their lead in the closing minutes.
The Cavaliers had six players in double figures, led by 16 from Luke Harangody, who got the first start of his career.
Jan Vesely also showed significant improvement over his scoreless performance against the Knicks, with 11 points on 5 of 10 shooting.
“Starting off, we were lethargic,” Roger Mason Jr. said. “We had won two straight, we were feeling good. These have been two games where we had a setback. We have another opportunity to play on Monday, a chance to do something. We’re playing for pride right now.”
The Wizards will have Sunday off before facing the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls at the United Center. With the season winding down, both mental and physical fatigue have become a factor.
“If we are mentally tired, then every team in the league is [tired],” Wittman said. “Everybody’s in the same boat. It’s not like the Washington Wizards are the only one playing this schedule.”