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Wizards need to improve their rebounding

The Wizards are 4-1. Yay! But rebounding has to be a priority as they move into a more difficult part of their schedule.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With 12 seconds left in overtime, in their first nationally televised regular season game in four years, the Wizards were hanging onto a two-point lead over the Indiana PacersPacers Coach Frank Vogel drew up a play for Chris Copeland to take a three-pointer that Vogel hoped would allow his team to walk off the court with a victory. That option failed to materialize though, and the Pacers settled for a three from Roy Hibbert that fell well short of the mark.

Nevertheless, Copeland managed to sneak in for the rebound and throw up a shot that would have forced another overtime. Mercifully for the Wizards and those who came out for this later-than-usual weekday game, it was off the mark, and the Wizards escaped with an 86-84 win. Though Copeland missed, the play was emblematic of something the Wizards have done too much of this season: allow teams second chances on offense.

After the game, Randy Wittman cited it as the primary thing that kept an undermanned Pacer squad in the game: "That's the part we got to shore up. In my estimation, it's not going to be very close at the end if we don't give up 14 offensive rebounds."

It's not going to be very close at the end if we don't give up 14 offensive rebounds. -Randy Wittman

In particular, he brought up a sequence in overtime in which the Wizards missed on a chance to close out the game by failing to prevent an offensive rebound. "What'd we get up five in the overtime? We run the 24-second clock all the way down to nothing, and they get the offensive rebound and kick-out shot for a three. Instead of it being under two minutes with the ball up five and the chance to really put it away and now it's back to two and that happened."

Though those circumstances don't match exactly what occurred (with about a minute left, a Copeland miss early in the shot clock was followed by a Hibbert rebound and a Copeland floater), it does indicate a sequence in which a Pacers offensive rebound foiled what could have been a good defensive possession for the Wizards.

In addition to giving up all of those offensive rebounds to the Pacers, the Wizards have also been the worst offensive-rebounding team in the NBA this season at 7.2 per game, whereas they have given up an average of 12 offensive rebounds per game on the other end. This imbalance cost them dearly in the season-opening loss to the Heat. Miami was able to keep numerous plays alive with long rebounds and took advantage of those second chances. Similarly, Milwaukee's 16 offensive rebounds helped keep them within striking distance of the Wizards through most of the second half.

This is a small sample size, and the Wizards may not have been motivated to play against the lesser opponents they have taken on so far as they might have been against better teams. Marcin Gortat hinted as much, saying after the game that they might have overlooked this Pacers team and underestimated just how much effort they would need to put forth to win. Gortat mentioned the Wizards' failures to box out and the energy of the Pacers bench as contributing factors to their deficiencies on the boards.

The Wizards ability to prevent other teams from cleaning up on the glass is something to keep an eye on as the early season progresses. The improving health of Kris Humphries should help, but for now it's on the Wizards' current lineup to box out and hustle for the 50-50 balls. Perhaps the Wizards haven't needed to bring that level of energy against their early opponents.  We'll see if they can turn on the switch tonight against a formidable Raptors team in Toronto.