WASHINGTON -- The Wizards were up by eight points with about 90 seconds left in the first overtime period last night against the Brooklyn Nets. You can credit the Nets for fighting hard and making shots when it counted. You can credit P.J. Carlesimo's play calling.
But on the Wizards' end, there was a fundamental breakdown in communication over those 90 seconds, and a lot of it revolved around Jordan Crawford.
During the postgame presser, Randy Wittman looked looked despondent. No one spoke for the first 20 seconds of the presser, until a reporter broke the silence. Here's a transcript of some of Wittman's remarks, with a little video peppered in to pinpoint what he was talking about.
REPORTER: Randy, why couldn't your guys close it out in the first overtime?
WITTMAN: Listen, if I had the answer--come on, guys. Ask me a question.
REPORTER: What do you think--
WITTMAN: We turned the ball over, alright? We got doubled, we wouldn't pass. Why? I don't know why it happens. We missed free throws. I don't know why that happened. Is that what you're asking? Why did we miss free throws? I don't know why, alright? We did.
It's making one play down the stretch. One play, whether it be free throws, at numerous times, in an effort like that. You know, it hurts. It goes wasted. Then, Joe Johnson makes a shot at the end.
REPORTER: This game was so emotional, so many great moments in it. Is this one of the toughest you've had to swallow this season? I know you've had a lot.
WITTMAN: Yeah. Definitely.
REPORTER: Because of the emotion of the game? Because of what was put out, in terms of minutes? You saw what your guys gave you.
WITTMAN: Yeah, again. I can't fault anybody's effort. Did everyone play the best they could? No. But the effort -- but what were up we up, 8? With a minute-twenty-seven? You gotta close that game out. We GOT to close that game out.
The beginning of the breakdown in the first overtime: Jordan Crawford misses his assignment on Keith Bogans.
WITTMAN: You're up eight with a minute-twenty-seven, and they're running around trapping you. And we're running around dribbling.
The very next play: Gerald Wallace notices Crawford has been dribbling for a long time. He slips past Nene and picks Crawford's pocket. Crawford fouls him on the other end. Wallace makes both his free throws.
WITTMAN: The thing that is disturbing is when you do the same mistake over and over again as you're closing a game out. When a guy is doubled, you have to move the ball to an open guy. We did it against Joe Johnson and [Deron] Williams all night in isolations. We moved the ball. That's how you win a close game.
The very next play: Crawford dribbles around for 18 seconds, then misses a jumper. Deron Williams scores an easy layup on the next Nets possession.
WITTMAN: We've got to keep striving to find the magic of closing a game out. Having guys step up -- whether it's to the free throw line, whether it's to make a play at the end.
The very next play: Jordan Crawford gets fouled, and he misses both free throws. Brook Lopez gets the rebound, and Nene fouls him. That would be Nene's sixth foul, and he is now out of the game. Lopez hits both of his free throws, and the Wizards call a timeout. Brooklyn has taken the lead, 102-101.
WITTMAN: How many times have we been here? I've lost count.
On the next play: Crawford gets the inbound pass and dribbles around for 11 seconds, then misses a jumper. Deron Williams gets fouled. Williams extends the Nets' lead to 104-101.
REPORTER: Randy, even with that said, like you mentioned--the turnovers, the missed free throws -- Bradley gives you another shot with that three to send it into second overtime --
WITTMAN: He made two big shots. HUGE shots. Then he went to the line and made a couple free throws. No, Bradley kept us alive when we should have been dead. And we never should have been dead to begin with.
On the next play, Bradley Beal hits a seemingly momentum-shifting buzzer-beater 3 to force a second overtime. The Wizards are outplayed in that period, and they go on to lose the game 115-113.
It's difficult to point fingers toward a clear culprit in a hard-fought game that features 10 guys on the floor at any given time. It's especially bad for team morale for a coach to single out a player above all others for losing a game. Coaches single players out for doing what they shouldn't do by limiting their time on the court. Randy Wittman has faith in Crawford, and everyone who has watched any Wizards game this season knows that the team wouldn't have been in ANY of the games had Crawford's offense not been a central part of the playbook.
But it's hard to ignore the subtext in Wittman's postgame remarks. There's no way his plays out of timeout called for "Jordan Crawford dribbling around for 18 seconds before taking a bad jumper." But the coach trusted his player, as he should have. Crawford had played well all game (23 points on 13 shots), and his offense was needed to try to get the team a win. If Wittman didn't trust him in crunch time, he wouldn't have left him in.
But something broke down at the end. It might have been communication issue. It might have been nerves or thinking too much or fatigue. It might have been bad luck.
But unfortunately, that breakdown in the first overtime has Crawford's fingerprints all over it.