Fatigue catches up to Wizards in home finale

Fatigue catches up to Wizards in home finale
April 12, 2013, 10:45 pm
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Wizards fall on fan appreciation night

In their last home game of the season, the Wizards’ first basket came on a three-pointer from Garrett Temple.

It also would be their last.

Washington missed the next 12 en route to blowing a 13-point lead midway through the second quarter in a 97-86 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.

Despite that, the Wizards ended the season 22-19 at Verizon Center, their first winning record at home since the 2007-08 season.

The loss also means that coach Randy Wittman's goal for his team to move into ninth place in the East, ahead of the Sixers, is over.  The Wizards (29-51), who are on a four-game losing streak, only have two games left. The Sixers (32-47) ended a three-game losing streak.

“It’s very disappointing. We set that goal about a month and a half ago,” Temple said of not reaching ninth which became a motivation when they were eliminated from the playoffs April 3. The Wizards have dropped to 11th.

The inability to make shots translated into a lackluster effort on defense Friday.

“We were getting a little down,” said John Wall, who had a game-high 24 points on 9-for-21 shooting and seven assists. “Usually when we (make shots) we play defense and keep ourselves into the games and we didn't do that in the second half.”

Philadelphia trimmed the deficit to 49-48 at the half and then made 21 of 45 shots (46.6%) in the second half. The Wizards couldn't match it.

“We lost our rhythm offensively,” Wittman said. “We didn't move the ball, we didn't move people. When you do that, it catches up to you. … We could never get it back.”

A.J. Price, Wall’s backup, had an easy explanation for the letdown. He pointed to his left knee that was wrapped in ice.

Price, who scored a career-high 23 points in a loss to the Miami Heat earlier in the week, was just 3-for-13. He missed all seven of his three-point attempts.

“My legs. Just tired,” Price said. “We just didn't have it tonight. We all looked a step behind. Not ourselves.”

The Wizards’ defense had been a strength going into the final month of the season, but it has been anything but that lately.

“Defensively, that first quarter and the first part of the second quarter, we were back to doing the things we did well. Then we lost our focus and stopped doing the things we needed to do,” Wittman said. “It became a pick-up-type game.”

The Wizards ended the first quarter with a 31-24 lead and never scored more than 21 points in a quarter after that. Wall shot 3-for-11 in the second half.

“I just got a little fatigued, not being able to make my jump shots. I think all of them were kind of short,” Wall said. “Fatigue set in.”

The new goal is to get to 30 wins. The Wizards have to win one of their road games at the Brooklyn Nets on Monday and Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. Both are playoff teams and competing for higher seeds.

The Wizards ended last season on a six-game win streak. It’s conceivable that they can lose the last two and end this season with a six-game losing streak.  They’re only 7-32 away from Verizon.

“We just need to play with a sense of urgency,” Price said. “Just play like we’re playing for something these last two games and just show … we’re going to compete.”