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Posted at 2:20 AM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Wizards keep fighting...and losing on the road

By Michael Lee

We're. Almost. There. (AP Photo)


Maybe it's because I've been around the team all season, and have grown accustomed to the Wizards' inability to close out games. Maybe it's because the Wizards don't have a Dirk Nowitzki, a Kevin Durant, or some guy who you know is going to get a bucket in crunch time. Or maybe it's because the Wizards simply weren't going to get many favorable calls on the road.

But there never was a point in the fourth quarter that I thought that the Wizards were going to upset the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. They were within four points with less than three minutes remaining, and trailed by five in the final minute, but I remember saying, "I keep waiting for that backbreaking three-pointer."

I sensed it was coming, and it did, after the Wizards stood in amazement to watch Tyson Chandler grab a rebound that soared over the backboard, extending a possession that ended when Jason Kidd made a three-pointer from the left corner that sent them to a 102-92 loss at American Airlines Center.

Perhaps the Wizards should have at least one or two road wins by now, but they don't. And, there is no denying that this team is deficient in too many areas to win on the road without the benefit of several excellent performances and some favorable bounces. They understand their plight, continue to fight and continue to lose.

After the game, I asked Flip Saunders about how hard it is for the team to win without a lot working in their favor and he gave one his longest answers of the season. I went back and checked. It was 1 minute, 42 seconds. Saunders spelled out the entire predicament:

"That's who we are. When you're young and you're not as talented as the team you're facing, and you're facing good teams -- this is a good team -- you don't have a big margin of error We've gone out and we've competed. [Trevor Booker] went out and competed, got in some foul trouble and he didn't back down. John [Wall] bounced back in a very positive way. Our young guys are expanding. From a standpoint of what we're trying to do, it's tough to say we've lost 24 in a row. It's tough to say. But you know, we know where we were when the season started. We're doing things based on where we're going to be next year and in two years.


This is how you finish, guys. (AP Photo)

"Kevin Durant, you look at where they are, his first year, they won 20 games...Sometimes, you've got to go through some growing pains," he said. "Is it tough at the time? There's no question. Is it tough on your fans? There is no question. But you hope that they understand and they see, our guys, they don't quit. Do they get down on ourselves? Yes, that happens because of maturity, but they don't quit and they get out there and they compete. I've never gone through a stretch. It not like we've lost 24 in a row, because you go home, win two and you forget about it, until you come back on the road and are reminded. Even though our guys have always bounced back from a bad performance and they keep a positive attitude. We work on development everyday and our guys are getting better. We're going to get one. Hopefully sooner than later."

The mood after most road losses has mostly been anger, but the Wizards focused on the positives of a game that they nearly won, even with two of their leading scorers, Andray Blatche and Nick Young, combining to go just 10 for 37 from the floor.

They were a spunky bunch, as Blatche played through pain in his right shoulder to grab 13 rebounds and Young never lost his confidence, even as he missed 14 of his 20 field goal attempts. He made a jumper in the fourth quarter that brought the Wizards within 81-75 and shouted toward the Mavericks bench, "All day! All day!" He then missed his last four shots.

"They've got some talented guys that know how to play and can put the ball in the basket," Kidd said. "This is a tough team to play, no matter what their record is. They come out and play hard."

The Wizards believe that they are getting closer, and getting better, after pushing Oklahoma City to double overtime and hanging with the Mavericks until the final minute. "This whole road trip, we haven't got a win but there is an upside," Blatche said. "We've been very aggressive. We've been competitive. We just been working hard, except for this Memphis game. It's just down late in the game, things aren't going our way."

They spent a good amount of time complaining about calls or non-calls, and Saunders eventually picked up a technical foul when he thought Ian Mahinmi had blocked off Yi Jianlian with an illegal screen to let Nowitzki get inside for a layup.

Saunders's anger lit a fire under his players and pushed them to get within four points when Yi made two free throws. But Nowtizki, a former league MVP who has learned through years of repetition how to finish off inferior competition, came right back to hit a jumper. Wall and Young then missed three of four free throws, keeping the Wizards from getting close enough to make the Mavericks sweat. Wall was upset that he missed some late free throws, as he did on Friday in Oklahoma City.

"We knew we was playing against a talented team, that's lost a couple of players, but they still are one of the best teams in the West Coast, still can score in various ways and we got two great closers down the stretch in Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry," Wall said. "We fought. It's tough, down the stretch, ball didn't fall our way and shot didn't fall our way, but I thought we competed very hard."

And lost, again.

"We've got to keep playing," Rashard Lewis said. "Even though we haven't won a game on the road, we can't put our head down. We've got to keep pushing forward, trying to win ball games."

By Michael Lee  | February 1, 2011; 2:20 AM ET
Categories:  Andray Blatche, Flip Saunders, John Wall, Nick Young, Yi Jianlian  
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Next: Mavericks keep Wizards winless on the road

Comments

The time has come to make a change of the head coach. Superior coaching can & should push inferior players to win atleast one of first 24 away games .. this is no longer about youth being served, this team is becoming a joke. If the ownership & GM had any will to win, they would openly challenge coach & players to win tonite against New Orleans, or will be playing for a new head coach come the game following ...

Posted by: SkinzFanzz | February 1, 2011 2:52 AM | Report abuse

I do not undertsand why the ball has to fall on the hands of AB and NY all the time even when they shoot 25%.How on earth an NBA coach expect a 6.7 forward is garding a jump shooting 7ft forward?.This coach has to go,does Ted expect the fan to come out infront of verizon like the Egypians? Would that work, may me all fans need to ignore the upcoming game against orlando.
It is shame.Indiana has its 1st win in 8 games after they fire the coach,i think that is the only way the team can get a win.

Posted by: gtefferra | February 1, 2011 6:18 AM | Report abuse

I didn't notice any fight in Blatche. In fact, I saw heartless surrender. He is a guy who deserved no more than 8 minutes of playing time last night, which would have been a enough to time to see ZERO effort, at least 2 missed layups, 2 ill-conceived drives to the basket, and 4 20 foot jumpshopts. Why does Flip tolerate his play especially the jumpers (my guess is that he shoots around 35% from outside 15 feet). He's become a huge drag on this team, and he needs either less time or a new team.

Booker or Rashard should get the majority of minutes at 4.

Posted by: ZardsFan1 | February 1, 2011 7:19 AM | Report abuse

The time has come........to sit back and enjoy the ride. There aren't going to be any changes other than those in personnel. No GM is leaving. No coaches are coming. This is it.

Only players will change as LEONSIS patiently allows EG and FLIP to shuffle talent around under the three-year plan now in place. So enjoy the ride WIZARDS fans. It is what it is.

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 1, 2011 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Hey, look at the bright side. Maybe we can be like the Nats and get #1 pick two straight years!! Too bad there is not a Kobe or Lebron out there to pick from.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | February 1, 2011 8:01 AM | Report abuse

"......I do not undertsand why the ball has to fall on the hands of AB and NY all the time even when they shoot 25%......"

gtefferra


B/c once it's in their hands, the ball goes up. With both of them on the court, the WIZ play 3 on 5 team offensew. When one only is on the court, it's 4 on 5. When neither is on the court, the WIZ play good b-ball. It is what it is. When the coach and others reference lack of talent, unintelligent jack-it-up play is the reason why!!!!!

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 1, 2011 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Hey, look at the bright side. Maybe we can be like the Nats and get #1 pick two straight years!! Too bad there is not a Kobe or Lebron out there to pick from.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | February 1, 2011 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, too, too bad!

Posted by: glawrence007 | February 1, 2011 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Saunders...when he thought Ian Mahinmi had blocked off Yi Jianlian with an illegal screen to let Nowitzki get inside for a layup."

I agreed with him. But that's the home court: it's not just the way calls are made, it's the way they sometimes aren't.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 1, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse

That shot did not go over the backboard, it blatantly hit the top and was out of bounds, the refs missed it. The Wiz seriously can't catch a break from the refs, when it counts there is always some bullcrp call that goes against them. It happened in OKC and and it happened here.

Posted by: tarquam | February 1, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse

"Too bad there is not a Kobe or Lebron out there to pick from.Posted by: fearturtle44"

Look at it this way: Kobe went 13th.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 1, 2011 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I will tell you exactly why...because both Nick Young and Andray Blatche are two of the league's most selfish players!!! I can take a game like that from Nick, he can occasionally light it up, but for the most part when he struggles, he will force a shot over multiple defenders trying to get his shot off, bad idea. I've seen Nick miss a cutting player going to the basket only to watch him hoist a shot up over a double team...learn to pass Nick and trust me, you will be a better player for it. Blatche is the softest and dumbest player we have on the team, period. Trade him and cut ties with this bumb!! I'm tired of the same thing from him night in and night out. He has enough nerve to shout.."All Day, All Day" to the Mavs bench when he finally hits a jumper, what an idiot. I will not re new my season tix next year if we bring Blatche back, he is a absolute eye sore for this team.

Posted by: coach55 | February 1, 2011 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I dont understand why they run isolations for Nick down the stretch rather than setting him up off screens etc. Refs are what they are, that's the nba, but there were some terrible calls. Great to see Flip get that T and it looked the players appreciated it.

Posted by: divi3 | February 1, 2011 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Can't say anything more then has already been said above. Hopefully Ernie and Flip both will be gone after the season.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | February 1, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

You blokes that are complaining about Nick and AB getting shots... are you realizing that neither is responsible for calling plays.

Most of the plays and shot selections on the floor from the set are 99% called plays by the PG or Flip.

This isn't a freelance offense where players get the ball and go on their own. It is an controlled offense. It is why Nick got upset the other night about play calling.

Also, when you have a controlled offense, if the players are not hot, you're sunk.

Boston has a controlled offense too, but the difference is that Rondo makes decisions based upon spontaneity on the court. Doc Rivers doesn't stand on the sideline and micromanage everything on the floor. Rondo and the Team have the responsibility to run the offense and make sponteneous plays. They are free to make plays within and without the system.

It is a huge huge HUGE difference.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | February 1, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

re: Flip's comments, he is spot-on in mentioning Durant, because the only way the Wizards will get appreciably better in the next 1-2yrs is for Wall to make the same kind of leap KD, Rose, Westbrook, etc have made. Last night was a game this exact team will win, if Wall makes the same progression his elite peers have.

Posted by: divi3 | February 1, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

I suspect with Ernie in Dallas last night something is going to happen. Probably a trade. It may be with the Lakers for Hinrich.

I hope Ted has a lot of patience because he will need it.

At some point Ted will see that this is not getting better and certainly not progressing to a championship.

The history of the Wizards present management does not point to a championship. We need someone who can select players who are physical, strong, can rebound, can compete, and can play defense. We have tried skinny, soft, and uncommitted, and it doesn't work.

We have tried covering up for players (Arenas) and not holding them accountable for their actions. What happened then?

We need a committment to selecting players that can win and developing them quickly not over years.

Good luck Ted!

Posted by: JoeC2 | February 1, 2011 8:52 AM | Report abuse

You see folks this offense that Flip runs is the same for a veteran Team and this young inexperienced Team. What is it so special about Flips offense that apparently he is so sure that if the Team sticks with it and gets better at it, it really is going to win anything for them.

This offense that Flips runs and controls the teams play with ought to be the subject of discussion at this point.

How much of this presumed ineptitude of the players is a direct result of Flips offense?

Thats the question.

In his answer back to Nick Young, Flip indicated that it was the defense of the players. Well, why could it not be offensive system that dominates the Teams play that he makes sure they run religiously.

What about that???

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | February 1, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

@SkinzFanzz: Are you for real? How is the threat of coaching change going to increase the talent of the players? We saw with the firing of Eddie Jordan that coaching changes don't turn into wins. Have you even thought of the economics of it all? This team was built (intentionally or accidentally) to tread water until help comes (through the draft). It just sucks that they don't have a win on the road and everybody focuses on that. Like Flip said, the OKC Thunder won 20 games in Durant's first year. In the second, they got more help via the draft and now are a respectable team. I think that's the blueprint the wizards are following.

All you can expect from the current Wizards is to play with fire and maximize their limited talent. You are seriously deluded if you think this team has a chance against a team like Mavs in Dallas.

Posted by: tundey | February 1, 2011 9:01 AM | Report abuse

"when [Nick] struggles, he will force a shot over multiple defenders trying to get his shot off"

Yep, but haven't we seen that sort of thing from Carmelo, Kobe, LeBron, and dozens of lesser lights? I think it's that scorer's mentality -- no such thing as an impossible shot as long as they're taking it. Young is known for a high degree of difficulty.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 1, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

"What is it so special about Flips offense that apparently he is so sure that if the Team sticks with it and gets better at it, it really is going to win anything for them."

That is usually the case in the NBA, particularly with young teams. It's not so much the plays they execute, it's that they execute them well. Earlier this season we saw Gilbert and Kirk rolling their eyes because the young guys were out of position -- that's what has to be corrected.

Jerry Sloan is at one end of the offensive continuum and Mike D'Antoni at the other, but most teams prefer something of a blend. IMO the Wiz are about as good a fit for their current scheme as they would be for most others. Question is, can they learn to run it more proficiently?

Posted by: Samson151 | February 1, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

To Samson151...Yes but the major difference is Carmelo and Kobe are much better than Nick Young, no comparison. And to LarryInCLintonMD, is it the play that Saunders has calle dwhen Andray goes between the legs twice, behind the back and jacks up a 2o ft jumpshot without anyone else on the floor touching the ball? I think Not. Is it Flip's play call when Nick gets the ball, face up an opponent, driblles for 2/3 of the shot clock and launches a very contested jumper over 3 defenders while a wide open teammate is under the hoop doing jumpingjacks becuase he is so wide open, I think Not.
See, that's one of the major issues here is that everyone is so quick to blame Flip, what about the players? It is awfully apparent here that this team has an overall very poor basketball IQ. Yes, Flip is NOT the man for the job but fault lies with the players as well. Fair statement is it not?

Posted by: coach55 | February 1, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Ernie Grunfeld is the only easy and obvious explanation for the wretched condition of this team. He extended Blatche despite knowing that he's got no work ethic and is insubordinate, and that's just his character deficiencies. His play is softer than Contonelle two-ply, selfish, low-energy, and low IQ. Last year's decision to trade the 5th pick speaks for itself, but the inexcusable decision to pass on Blair epitomizes EG's devaluing of physical players (see Peterov, Blatche, McGee). As a result, he was forced compensate in the 2010 draft by taking a gamble on Seraphin. Finally, EG traded Caron Butler, Jamison and Haywood without getting a single player, excluding draft picks, that is contributing to the 2011 roster. This short summary omits the Gil extension, which was his most grevious personelle decision.

Leonsis is a smart man, and he knows that EG is personally responsible for the pathetic Wiz roster. When the NBA resumes after the lockout, there will be new management in DC.

Posted by: ZardsFan1 | February 1, 2011 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Ernie Grunfeld is the only easy and obvious explanation for the wretched condition of this team. He extended Blatche despite knowing that he's got no work ethic and is insubordinate, and that's just his character deficiencies. His play is softer than Contonelle two-ply, selfish, low-energy, and low IQ. Last year's decision to trade the 5th pick speaks for itself, but the inexcusable decision to pass on Blair epitomizes EG's devaluing of physical players (see Peterov, Blatche, McGee). As a result, he was forced compensate in the 2010 draft by taking a gamble on Seraphin. Finally, EG traded Caron Butler, Jamison and Haywood without getting a single player, excluding draft picks, that is contributing to the 2011 roster. This short summary omits the Gil extension, which was his most grevious personelle decision.

Leonsis is a smart man, and he knows that EG is personally responsible for the pathetic Wiz roster. When the NBA resumes after the lockout, there will be new management in DC.

Posted by: ZardsFan1 | February 1, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Blaming this on Flip is ridiculous. Look at the roster! We have a rookie PG and a headcase as our "best player." So it's been a long road losing streak. So what, it happens when you're young and your talent level isn't on the level of your competition. Our center and our SG were both riding pine last year. What do you expect? It's called rebuilding. We're holding our own at the Verizon Center, even above .500 at home so clearly this has more to do with the players than the guy standing on the sidelines. DC sports fans never cease to amaze me with their impatience and overall lack of understanding of situations at hand. It's all kneejerk reactions and "OFF WITH HIS HEAD!"

Posted by: KellRawLive | February 1, 2011 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Can't say anything more then has already been said above. Hopefully Ernie and Flip both will be gone after the season.

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
"Ernie Grunfeld is the only easy and obvious explanation for the wretched condition of this team. He extended Blatche despite knowing that he's got no work ethic and is insubordinate, and that's just his character deficiencies. His play is softer than Contonelle two-ply, selfish, low-energy, and low IQ. Last year's decision to trade the 5th pick speaks for itself, but the inexcusable decision to pass on Blair epitomizes EG's devaluing of physical players (see Peterov, Blatche, McGee). As a result, he was forced compensate in the 2010 draft by taking a gamble on Seraphin. Finally, EG traded Caron Butler, Jamison and Haywood without getting a single player, excluding draft picks, that is contributing to the 2011 roster. This short summary omits the Gil extension, which was his most grevious personelle decision...."
Posted by: ZardsFan1
^^^^
Now.. sit back and wait for Sampson151 to explain why you both are clueless.. and if you respond with logic and criteria.. his "style" will downgrade to name calling and insults. Don't waste your time responding to the troll.

Posted by: member8 | February 1, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

It is a huge huge difference between Rondo, KG, Pierce, and Jesus Shuttlesworth and the guys we're throwing out there. Comparing the two is insane. Flip was winning 50 games with regularity when he was coaching KG. I can't believe you even went there Larry!

Posted by: KellRawLive | February 1, 2011 10:23 AM | Report abuse

The self imposed fines for John Wall seem to be working--his body language has improved. With that in mind, how about a $50 fine everytime AB dribbles between his legs and takes a 15 foot fade away. How about a $50 fine everytime he takes a shot beyond 15 feet that is not in the flow of the offense or the end of the shot clock. He is not Dirk Nowitzki or KG! AB needs to showcase more of his post passing plus take fewer and better shots. He needs to be inside.

Posted by: audacitea | February 1, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Grant Hill commented how the wizards ran the same play the entire game. Apparently teams are now calling the play before the wizards go into the set so "Is it Flip's play call?" hmmmm

by the way seraphin got 8 seconds last night after a +6 effort the night before.

Posted by: spoooooooon | February 1, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Is it Flip's play call when Nick gets the ball, face up an opponent, driblles for 2/3 of the shot clock and launches a very contested jumper over 3 defenders while a wide open teammate is under the hoop doing jumpingjacks becuase he is so wide open, I think Not.


This never happens BTW. Not all the dribbling. NY is playing the catch and shoot game the way the coach designs it. Unfortunately he's not a natural playmaker and is just learning how to make that extra pass off the designed play (as evidenced by the nifty dish to Yi who was cutting, and the oop to Javale a coupla games back). The funny thing is Nick has had some success lately taking a coupla dribbles and getting to the hole or finding a teamate.
He's had a tough past 2 or 3 games, but he never i repeat never dribbles out 2/3 of the shot clock (16 seconds) you can look at AB,Kirk or the Great Wall if you want a dribbling exhibition.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | February 1, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

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