The Washington Wizards (0-9) provided an all-too-familiar song and dance Monday night as the winless team fell once again, this time to a final score of 96-89 in their second matchup against the Indiana Pacers (5-7) this season.
Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 18 points, two rebounds and two blocks, but his performance couldn’t hold a candle to the 30 points, eight rebounds and four blocks put forth by Pacers power forward David West against a wildly inconsistent Wizards defense.
It probably didn’t help matters for the Wizards when, at tipoff, it looked as though would-be attendees had already fled the city for the Thanksgiving holiday.
In less than four minutes into the first quarter, however, those who turned out for the game made their voices heard. Once the Pacers managed an early 13-4 run against a nonexistent Wizards defense, the boo-birds came out in full force. And, it quickly became all too clear why, as the Wizards appeared to chase around the ball as though they had no defensive strategy for the first half.
“When you get off to a start like that, I mean, it kind of ruins the energy of the team,” Beal said after the game. “It seems like, ‘Wow, we’re down so much already.’ But, like I said before, the thing I like about this team is we don’t give up, we keep battling, we keep competing.”
Despite closing the first quarter down 28-13, the Wizards began to show signs of life as the game progressed.
In the second quarter, Washington managed to do something they couldn’t in their last meeting with the Pacers – they drew foul shots. More importantly, they managed to sink 11 of them in the second quarter alone – after going just five-for-seven from the free throw line in their Nov. 10 matchup. To add to that, Jordan Crawford had nine points in the quarter, along with A.J. Price’s eight and Kevin Seraphin’s seven, and the Wizards closed out the half trailing just 50-41.
Despite the dismal outcome of Monday night’s game, at the very least, Wizards fans found temporary solace in knowing their team put forth a competitive effort – even more-so than they had in earlier games this season.
With just over five minutes left in the third, the Wizards managed to fall behind by 20 points as Ian Mahinmi effortlessly floated one past Jan Vesely as though he weren’t standing directly in front of him, attempting to block the shot.
Shortly after, Wizards coach Randy Wittman called upon Shaun Livingston and Chris Singleton.
Hardly five days after the Wizards signed Livingston, he became one of the key faces behind yet another all-too-late rally by the team. During Monday night’s matchup, Livingston saw more than 24 minutes of playing time – largely because he earned the right to remain on the court, and partly because Wittman simply ran out of options.
However, he and Chris Singleton provided what the Wizards needed most – the energy to tackle a 20-point deficit head-on. Along with Bradley Beal, the seemingly dynamic duo helped spark an 18-2 run to allow the Wizards to finish the third quarter trailing just 71-67.
But, inconsistency was the name of the game Monday night.
With just 3:30 left in the game, the Pacers narrowly held onto an 86-85 lead. However, Livingston and Seraphin missed key opportunities, while West and Roy Hibbert wasted little time tacking on points for the Pacers. Needless to say, when all was said and done, the Wizards’ second-half rally fell short, allowing them to set a new franchise record with nine consecutive losses to start the season.
While all but Cartier Martin saw game action Monday night for Washington, it became clear that Wittman and his Wizards currently lack the formula they need to establish consistent roles on the squad.
“I don’t know who to start, who to play, who not to play,” Wittman said after the game. “It’s the confusion of different guys every game – whether starters or bench, bench or starters. We have no consistency in our group of play. To get off to a start like we did tonight, there’s no excuse.
“I’d love to have an eight- or nine-man rotation – that’s my dream,” he later added. “Now, I’m playing 12 or 13 every night – you can’t do that in an NBA game.”
With matchups against the Hawks, Bobcats, Spurs and Trail Blazers in the days ahead, there are no clear-cut answers for when the Wizards will write their first win in the books. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely they’ll get to that point soon without establishing a cohesive roster.