WASHINGTON - Defense, defense, defense. That’s what everyone talks about after a loss like this. But after blowing a 22 point lead to the Suns on Wednesday night, there wasn’t much chatter in the home locker room.
It was dead silent. As custom in any locker room after a game, win or lose, you’d hear music blaring from speakers right outside the showers. Not tonight. It was empty. There were four and five lockers of space between the players who were actually still in the building.
A loss is a loss. They happen and teams move on. But after this loss? There had to be a pause. There needed to be a gut check. This wasn’t about a lapse here or there anymore. What we thought was a lapse had revealed itself to be a full-blown habit, and that habit leads to the Wizards blowing games.
This one should have been an easy win with Cleveland coming into town on Friday, but if you know these Washington Wizards — and if you’re reading this I suspect you do — you know nothing comes easy for this team. They’re up big? You can be sure that the team they’re up on is going to make a run. They’re down big? They’ll make a run themselves just to either leave you elated in victory or tear your heart to shreds in defeat.
In this case, it was the latter. Fans, coaches and players were all at a loss for words. They allowed what might actually be the worst team in the league to come in and blow their doors off for 107 points over the final three quarters of play. That’s a game worth of points for some teams.
Defense is the main issue, but complacency is another. And the Wizards, as good as they can be, have a huge issue in that department.
“We were too cool,” Bradley Beal said after the game. “We thought it was going to be a cakewalk. And they bust our ass — plain and simple.”
There’s not really a better way to explain what’s going on with the Wizards right now. They’re a very good basketball team with the potential to be great, but they believe they’ve already achieved that greatness. Confidence is necessary in professional sports — players wouldn’t be professionals without it. But at some point, that confidence turns into arrogance and arrogance can lead to mistakes.
The Suns have already lost two games by more than 40 points already this season. They had the worst opening night loss in league history. The Wizards had no business playing in a close game with a team like this.
Yet here they were. What happened? The defense struggled, according to John Wall. There wasn’t enough effort defensively, according to Scott Brooks. Players needed to hold each other accountable, Beal said. Lather, rinse, repeat.
“We can’t just pick and choose possessions [to defend],” Brooks said. But they always do.
This has become an issue every single game. The Wizards have only had one game this season decided by seven or more points, and that was a blowout game on the road against the Kings — their only win in their last four games.
It didn’t matter that Otto Porter was out sick tonight. It didn’t matter that Markieff Morris was still out. “We’ve got enough guys in here to win a ball game,” Beal said. “There’s no excuse.”
But this is nothing new. All we have to do is look back to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Celtics where the Wizards blew a lead. Or in Fame 5 of that same series where the team didn’t show up at all defensively. This has been the team’s identity for quite some time now, and it doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
“We’re not jack-ish right now. We haven’t proven nothing, we haven’t done nothing. We’ve got to stay aggressive and on time,” Beal continued to say. “Until we get that in the back of our heads, we’re going to continue to play that way...we’re not defending a soul, period.”
The Wizards are finding out that complacency kills. They’re a long shot from being the team they believe they are, and they won’t get there until they figure that out.