- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2015

Like most plagues, the symptoms are clear. It’s a cure that escapes the afflicted.

For the Wizards, their ailments during a six-game losing streak were plentiful. Poor shooting from the wing crunched offensive space. When other teams went to a small lineup, the Wizards did not have the right mix to counter. Turnovers, lots of them, rounded out Washington during this stage as a wholesale mess.

Before Saturday night’s good-enough-for-now 99-95 win against the Detroit Pistons, coach Randy Wittman took the fans’ route during his media chat by taking blame for the losing streak. The swoon was his fault, he said, and he needed to figure out the remedy. After the game, he took the same tact.

“It starts with me and I’ve got to figure it out,” Wittman said. “I can’t explain it to you, how you play one half and then as soon as a team makes any kind of run, we stop playing. That’s what we do. We stop playing. I’ve got figure out how to help these guys overcome that.”

Bradley Beal returned Saturday night after missing eight consecutive games because of a lower leg injury. During his time away, his wing replacements struggled. Rasual Butler has lost his touch after sizzling start to the season that feels, and is, distant. Martell Webster has not been able to work his way into available minutes. Without Beal, the wing position had become a widening hole.

Wittman changed his rotation accordingly Saturday night. For Butler, it was the first time since Nov. 5 — when the Wizards were just realizing he could be an early season weapon — that he did not play. Webster again did not play. Beal and Paul Pierce were inserted into a revamped second group that often featured Ramon Sessions, Beal, Pierce, Drew Gooden — Kris Humphries was out because of a groin strain — and Kevin Seraphin.

Beal came out in the first quarter with 6:09 to play. Pierce followed shortly after at 5:01. They were both back on the floor to start the second quarter with the second unit. The last time both were healthy for a full game was Feb. 4. Beal and Pierce came out with 3:27 to play in the first quarter. Beal was back on the floor to start the second quarter that night against the Atlanta Hawks. Pierce returned with 7:20 to play in the second quarter.

“Coach is mixing things up,” Pierce said. “Sometimes you’ve got to do that when things aren’t going well for us. I don’t know if it’s something that we’re going to continue to do. It doesn’t matter. … However coach wants to use me, I’m here.”

The change was effective on a night the Wizards pushed their starters with heavy minutes. Pierce played 33:55. Beal, who supposedly was on a minutes restriction during his first game in three weeks, played 32:31. The only bench player to play more than 15 minutes was Gooden, who played 20:08 with Humphries unavailable.

With 22 games to play, Wittman will continue to juggle. His squad is one of the league’s oldest. Yet, they have to climb out of their current funk. Shifting minutes for Beal and Pierce may be a necessary, yet risky, path to at least a mild resurrection.

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