Dating back to the start of the 2007-08 season, the Wizards have been on eleven road trips of three games or more. The Wizards are 3-8 in the final game of those road trips, with five of those losses coming by ten points or more, including last night's 26 point loss to Phoenix.
You can't expect teams to play as well at the end of a road trip as they do during the middle of a nice home stretch. Even the elite teams lose a lot of games in these situations. However, the way in which the Wizards have lost the final games of their road trips has to make you wonder how bad this team wants to win. Every game is important, and when you see a team fold like the Wizards have time and time again over the last few years, it makes you wonder if the team needs a mentality makeover more than they need a roster makeover.
Then again, it may not be possible to get one without the other.
The Suns improved to 10-0 by consistently proving over the entire 48 minutes that they were hungrier and more determined to win. It's easy to look at the boxscore and see that the Suns shot 51.6 percent from the floor and credit them with being hot, but several other categories were highly troubling. They outrebounded the Wizards, 53-41. They destroyed them with points in the paint, 60-26. And, they had 19 second-chance points, compared to just nine for the Wizards. The Wizards simply got manhandled. The Suns had scored at least 30 points in 15 of their first 36 quarters at home this season, just shy of two per game. They had three 30-point quarters against the Wizards on Saturday. It really was embarrassing.
Thank you Gilbert Arenas. It was a pleasure watching a volume shooter in action. Last night you torched the Warriors for 45 points on 25 attempts. Tonight, 22 points on 21 attempts. Live by the Gilbert. Die by the Gilbert. This looked a lot like an undisciplined team which is exactly what Flip said about his squad, "I think we understand now that to be good we have to be disciplined in our approach both on the offensive end and the defensive end. And our guys have to understand that that means they have to sacrifice certain things...As I told them, I gave a lot of rope early to see where they were. Now we know."
This game was the last of a five-game Western Conference road trip for Washington and their fatigue surely showed. The Wizards had lost before the end of the third quarter, with both teams resting their starters by the start of the fourth. They played poorly on defense and made bad decisions shooting the ball. Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with 22 points but made only six of his 21 shot attempts. The Wizards ended the game with a 36.4 field goal percentage, the Suns allow teams to shoot 48.5% on average. In another sign of road trip burn-out, the Wizards were out-rebounded 53-41.
The Suns pounced on Washington right away, and in the second quarter Gilbert Arenas tried to rekindle the magic of Friday night in Golden State. He jacked up 14 second-quarter shots. But there was no swag tonight. He made only four of those shots. And for the night as a whole, Arenas threw up 21 shots and made only six of them. The Wizards as a team made only 32 of 88 shots and 8 of 21 3-point attempts. They had only 14 assists. Steve Nash had 15 himself to lead a Suns team that had 25. The Wizards had 14 turnovers.
The Suns on the other hand, were about as efficient as they always are when they take to the US Airways Center floor. Coming into the contest the Suns were averaging 116.1 points per game at home, a byproduct of 51.7 percent field-goal shooting and 48.3 percent three-point accuracy. Although the Suns weren’t as deadly from beyond the arc tonight, 7-of-21, they converted on 51.6 percent from the field. They built a big lead early, and actually held on, something they haven’t been able to say during the last couple of games. In three of the four games leading up to tonight’s contest, the Suns blew leads of 19, 17 and 15 — two of which resulted in losses.
Nick Young had 20 points off the bench for the Wizards, and Randy Foye whose playing time has been minimal in the last month recorded 13 points and a team-high four assists off the bench, with all of his points and all but one assist coming in the second half. But Foye said afterwards, "I'd rather watch from the bench and [see] us win than score a lot and us lose." Saunders was left once again to be frustrated over his players failing to execute the gameplan and as a result suffer another defeat.
Washington would probably like to say that their four-game swing was incredibly difficult, given the circumstances (injuries, losing streak). But with they way the season is headed -- evidenced by how hard they had to fight for a win over one of the worst teams in the Western Conference on Friday -- there's no reason for them to think things will get any easier. Philadelphia comes to town Tuesday but it's the front end of a back-to-back with a road visit to Milwaukee. I'm not sure of the team's travel schedule, either, but they have to be in Minnesota three days later -- perhaps they should have a team retreat over Christmas somewhere in the back woods of Wisconsin.
The Suns, who were frustrated by a Thursday loss in Portland, were not tested by a Wizards team that had won the night before against Golden State. While certainly fatigued in playing the last game of a four game road trip, the Wizards did not have the proper response for the Suns. "I am extremely disappointed," said Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. "In this league you can always come up with an excuse every night whether it’s back to back or the end of an eight-day road trip. It was like the last thing we wanted tonight was to be out there as for playing and how we played."
The Suns' real star of the game was their defense. Washington is just 8-17 and looked halfway home at the end of a West Coast trip. But Phoenix kept the Wizards out of the paint, limiting them to 36.4 percent shooting after they shot 39.1 percent in the teams' first meeting. A night after scoring 45 points against the Warriors, Washington's Gilbert Arenas shot 6 for 21. "We tried to take away all of the easy stuff early," Gentry said. "They got in late last night, and he (Arenas) played a lot of minutes (Friday). We wanted to make him beat us over the top."
Meanwhile, backup point guard Javaris Crittenton has been hoping to get back on the court in the near future and has been gradually ramping up his activity. But Friday night in the locker room at Golden State he looked like he had lost his best friend. I asked him what was wrong and he said the intense pain in his left ankle and foot had flared back up again and he was back to struggling to push off the foot. He was obviously frustrated because this has dragged on since training camp, he underwent what he viewed as a useless exploratory surgery, and now things haven't gotten any better.
Best of Twitterville
Twitter / Mike Prada
So I don't know if this is on purpose, but Gil has barely called for any plays tonight. No set plays, just pick and roll and shoot.
Twitter / Mike Jones
Ok scoreboard can NOT be right. .. RIGHT? 100-69? Daaaaaaaaang.
Twitter / Michael Lee
Clear the bench. The starters don't have it 2night. No way this group can come back from 25-down against PHX. Play Foye, McGee, Young, etc.
Twitter / wizznutzz
HOLY CRAP. this game is a poo-poo platter. we turnin in2 CAPZZNUTZZ