NEW YORK NY - JANUARY 24: Amar'e Stoudemire #1 of the New York Knicks competes for a rebound against Nick Young #1 of the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on January 24 2011 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this Photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Knicks defeated the Wizards 115-106. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Every NBA team has a better winning percentage when they play at home versus on the road. It appears to be natural for teams to struggle, comparatively speaking, when they are the road team. Generally speaking, the road team will get the home team's best effort when its opponent is playing on its home floor and in front of a supportive crowd.
When you look at some of the high level team statistics, not so surprisingly they indicate what we know by watching this team. They are not very good on the road.
When looking at these numbers, one of the first thought that jumps into your mind is that the Wizards defense is to blame. The Wizards, when on the road, allow their opponents to score 12 more points per game (108.7 vs. 96.4) compared to when they play in the Verizon Center. It is true that some of their worst defensive lapses seem to occur when they are on the road. Clearly, while that contributes to their horrible road record, defensive effort alone does not tell the full story.
The Wizards ineffective offense, which at times resembles on a bad Keystone Cops caricature, puts added pressure on the team's unfocused defensive play to try to keep the team in games. When the Wizards are on the road, they score nearly four fewer points per game (94.6 vs. 98.3), which on the surface, one might say that isn't too bad. However, when you consider that the Wizards grab fewer rebounds, get fewer assists, take fewer foul shots, commit more personal fouls and turn the ball over more frequently than their opponents - it becomes easy to understand where the additional 12 points per game comes from. When you provide more offensive opportunities to your opponent they will eventually take advantage of those additional opportunities.
Following last night's loss to the Knicks, Flip Saunders touched upon this by saying, "You can't turn the ball over 20 times and expect to beat people on the road." The Wizards offensive mistakes directly contributed to its defensive woes.
What also appears to be clear is that when the game begins to get a little frantic, a few of the Wizards resort to old (bad) habits. Rather than focus on fundamental basketball, they attempt to make 1-on-1 plays, which have much too often ended in disaster. Whether it was like last night's game when Nick Young attempted a behind-the-back pass to John Wall that sailed out of bounds, or Andray Blatche who took an off-balanced 18 footer, when John Wall wanted the ball back, the list of examples goes on and on.
However, Flip also hinted at something that a number of people have speculated about. That maybe a few of the young Wizards are spending too much time on non-basketball related activities (ahem at the club). Near the end of his post-game comments, Flip Saunders was asked about how some players did not seem to have enough energy. Flip, in part, responded by saying, "You shouldn't be tired after 26 minutes of play, unless we left our legs in New York City."
Given that Flip was standing in New York City at the time of his comments, it would seem to suggest that he was insinuating that a few players may have spent too much time out on the town the night before.
As professional basketball players, I do not question that every member of the team wants to win as many games as possible. I do question whether they have the desire to do everything that it takes to win every game possible. This team has lost an embarrassing number of road games. Teams who are equally young (or younger) and who are, based on overall record, actually worse than the Wizards (Cleveland, Minnesota, Sacramento, Toronto and New Jersey) have still managed to win at least 2 road games.
If the goal of ending this winless streak is not enough to focus you, at least for one night, I do not know what will.