Let’s be real, no one thought the Wizards turned the corner when they went 7-3 after losing John Wall to a season-ending heel injury. But there was reason to think they turned a corner after winning 8 of their last 13 games. If nothing else, it looked like they had enough to sneak back into a playoff spot.
On Tuesday, Washington looked just like the lottery-bound team they looked like for most of the first two months of the season in a 116-113 loss to the league’s worst team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Although Washington only lost by three points, they spent most of the night down by double digits. They were in an 88-69 hole after three quarters of basketball which we are probably better off never speaking of again.
The game only got interesting after Washington waived the white flag. Scott Brooks emptied the bench with 7:50 left after the Cavaliers took a 25-point lead. Two-way player and former Cavalier Jordan McRae poured in 15 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and Gary Payton II added 11 as the Wizards went on a 33-14 run to put themselves in a position to force overtime.
Washington had the ball down 3 with 11 seconds left. Brooks stuck with the reserve unit that brought them back into the game rather bring the starters back in for the final possession. He put the ball in rookie Troy Brown Jr.’s hands to make a play, but Cedi Osman knocked the ball away to keep Washington from extending the game any further.
Washington was ice-cold from the field in the first half
The arctic blast making its way through the Midwest felt like an apt metaphor for Washington’s offense in the first half. The final numbers aren’t nauseating thanks to Washington’s late rally, but it was just an ugly offensive performance following one of their best outings of the season on Sunday against the Spurs.
The Wizards shot 39.5 percent (17-of-43) from the field in the first half and trailed 53-47 at halftime as a result. Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza combined for 27 of Washington’s 47 points in the half and outside of Jeff Green who had seven, no other Wizards player scored more than four points in the half.
On top of the poor shooting, the Wizards struggled to get to the rim. The Cavs outscored the Wizards 28-8 in the paint in the first half and had 11 layups or dunks, compared to just 3 for Washington.
Defense. Defense? Defense?!
Remember how the Wizards looked much improved over the last few weeks on the defensive end? Yeah, we can stop all of that chatter. The defense was bad tonight, really bad.
The Cavs came into this game averaging 102.4 points per game — and they cracked the 100-point mark just three minutes into the fourth quarter. This wasn’t about scheme, wasn’t about X’s and O’s, this was about effort — and the Wizards had none until it was too late.
Ante Zizic and Cedi Osman bullied Thomas Bryant and Jeff Green from the beginning and Washington’s front-court duo didn’t have a response. To make matters worse, the Wizards didn’t have an answer for Jordan Clarkson either who scored 28 points tonight in a quasi-revenge game.
This play sums it all up.
Next up: The Wizards will try to get back on track against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday at 8 pm. Oddly enough, Washington is much better on the back end of back-to-backs (6-2) then they are on the front end (1-8).