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106-89 loss to Pistons shows the Wizards need more than just a pep talk

The Wizards continued their stumble out of the All Star break with a 17 point loss to the Pistons.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get into things, let's make one thing clear: This isn't a "FIRE WITTMAN!" post. Say what you want about what you may not like about his coaching style, but he's not all of the problem here, and bringing in someone new this late in the game leads to more problems than it solves, at least when it comes to the rest of this season.

No, when the title refers to the team needing more than a pep talk, it goes back to what Randy Wittman had to say when diagnosing the team's issues on Saturday after getting walloped against the Cavaliers on Friday.

"It's pretty simple, if we don't play with an edge and a meanness, toughness, we're going to have nights like last night. Especially against a team like that. It was a little shocking to me, to be honest with you, and I told them that."

To Wittman's credit, the team did come out with that edge in the first half, and it showed. They were up 49-38 with 3:25 to go in the second quarter. But from there, the Wizards outscored 68-40. Here's what their shotchart looked like during that stretch:

WizPistons Shotchart

All the rah-rah speeches and motivational talks in the world aren't going to get things done when you shoot like that for 27 minutes, regardless of how you play the rest of the game and how well you defend.

The contrast between the Wizards' construction and the Pistons could not have been more clear in how the teams performed tonight. While the Wizards are still relying on a early 2000's offensive style and early 2000's players, the Pistons, under Stan Van Gundy's direction, have embraced the changes of recent years, and it showed in the final numbers.

Right now, this offense is not set up to ever have a night like that, nor is the roster constructed to make that a possibility even if there was a coach in place who embraced getting points where they're most efficient.

An inability to adapt to current NBA schemes has kept the Wizards from being competitive against elite teams in the East like Atlanta, Toronto and Cleveland, and now we're starting to see how it's allowing less-talented teams like Detroit to narrow the gap on the Wizards as well. Like any other competitive field, the NBA is about adapting or dying. Right now, it certainly appears like the Wizards are doing more of the latter than the former.

Here's what else we learned tonight.

Wittman settles locker room discord

After Friday night's blowout loss, there was plenty of talk about who or what was to blame for the defensive breakdowns against Cleveland. Marcin Gortat and Paul Pierce in particular found themselves on opposite ends of Friday's debate that led to a testy film session on Saturday. But before anyone had a chance to push a "Wittman is losing the locker room" narrative, Pierce fed Gortat for the first two points of the game.

But the team wasn't just paying Gortat lip service with that early bucket. They made a concerted effort to go at Andre Drummond early, and Gortat responded with 12 points in the first quarter, even though he was paired with Kevin Seraphin for most of the quarter after Nene got in early foul trouble. Gortat cooled down a bit after his hot start in the first quarter, but still had one of his best games since the start of 2015, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Wizards still struggling from outside

Since walloping the Nets two weeks, the Wizards haven't looked good at all beyond the arc. Obviously, losing Bradley Beal hurts, but numbers like this just aren't going to cut it.

  • 7-25 vs. Orlando
  • 5-21 vs. Toronto
  • 1-16 vs. Cleveland
  • 6-17 vs. Detroit

That's good for a 24.1 percent beyond the arc over the past four games.

Sessions shows early promise

Ramon Sessions was limited to garbage time in Friday's blowout loss to the Cavaliers. But the team made it clear they were ready to set him loose today, when they named Garrett Temple the starter at shooting guard before the game.

Sessions got into the game with 2:46 left in the first, which is a bit sooner than Wittman had been going to Miller or Temple in recent games. Sessions got off to a quick start, making a layup and drawing a foul. He also had some nice chemistry with Kris Humphries early on, setting him up for two jumpers and a dunk in his first shift. What's more impressive is how Sessions was able to get things done despite playing alongside Garrett Temple and Otto Porter, who don't offer much support on the offensive end.

In fairness, Sessions was going up against a Pistons squad that's still trying to sort themselves out after the Reggie Jackson trade. But at least schematically, he brought everything the Wizards were hoping he would bring to the table when he was acquired on Friday.

In the second half, we saw a bit more of why Sacramento was so happy to unload Sessions for Andre Miller's expiring contract. While he was able to get to the paint fairly well, it didn't translate into points because he's not finishing well, and he's still not that much of an upgrade over Miller defensively.

So to sum things up, Sessions can bring a little bit more to the table when things are going well, but when things fall apart, he's not going to be part of the solution either.