WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With just under two minutes left in the game, Otto Porter barreled his body through the paint and threw up a floater just outside the restricted area. As the ball rattled its way around the rim and into the net, the crowd ERUPTED. Those two points signified Porter's first basket at the Verizon Center since his Georgetown days, and it was the perfect icing on a perfectly-executed game.
The Verizon Center was packed on Saturday night, and as has been the growing trend over the year, it was filled mostly with fans who wanted to see the Wizards bring some winning basketball back to the city. Their hopes were answered with a huge blowout win against a mostly listless Pistons squad. And the victory felt that much sweeter coming off an equally-disappointing blowout loss in Minnesota the night before.
"We got back a little bit of our identity that I thought we lost [Friday] night," Randy Wittman said after the win. "That was really good to see and a good bounce back win for us after a disappointing game."
But to which identity is Wittman referring? Sure, this team can play on both ends of the floor. They were a top-10 defense last year and they've been drilling corner 3s at an impressive clip this year. But the Wizards are certainly no stranger to blowout losses either: They've got nine losses by 20+ last season and this season combined. So ... how do we know this Wizards team that won by 24 over Detroit is the real Wizards "identity" over the one that lost to Minnesota by 22 just one night before?
"We competed," said Marcin Gortat, explaining the difference between this win and Friday night's loss. "I think we came out with a better focus."
The night before, the center admitted that he didn't think the team "played the way [they] were supposed to play," and they suffered a 22-point drubbing as a result.
Gortat wasn't the only one to make focus a priority against Detroit. Before Saturday's game, Wittman bemoaned the lack of defensive concentration against Minnesota, particularly its dominant frontcourt. But with a trio of Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, and Greg Monroe, what would make the difference between Friday and Saturday?
Maybe it's unfair to judge a team coming off a five-day holiday break on their sluggishness. Were they slower or moving the ball poorly in Minnesota? Maybe their execution wasn't there: 18 assists on 38 field goals on Friday; 34 assists on 43 field goals on Saturday.
"When we play united, we have a lot of power. When we start playing a little selfish, we do things different. Basketball is a simple game," Nene reminded us. "When we change our focus, we lose the game. It's a fact."
So, can they play on both ends of the floor night-in and night-out? Maybe getting the focus to stick is the trick. Where is the team's consistency?
"I think it's there," said John Wall after the win against Detroit. "I think we just got to keep playing defense first. When we play defense first it makes our game a lot better."
Then what happened against Minnesota? "We didn't do that. We let them do whatever they wanted and got whatever they wanted."
For a team coming off five years of scandal, mediocrity, sub-mediocrity and buffoonery, there are sure to be plenty of ups and plenty of downs as they try to establish a rhythm and identity while they move toward their goal of competing in the postseason.
"I think we're growing as a team," Wall said on Saturday night. But the team's captain has been around for most of the chaos. He knows they've still got work to do.
For now, maybe this roller-coaster of inconsistency is the identity. And maybe Nene's right. As much work as this team has ahead of it, basketball is still a simple game. It all seems to come down to consistent execution and focus. Here's hoping that roller-coaster ride starts to settle soon.
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