TORONTO Wizards coach Randy Wittman is not a whiner or a complainer. Its not his style. This is a guy who played for Bob Knight. When Wittman pointed out a free-throw discrepancy in Wednesdays loss, it was done more with the precision of a tax auditor than a bitter coach.
The Wizards in Wittmans words are trying to take baby steps, and in that perspective, even a six-point loss to the Magic can be viewed in a positive light. The Magic had 39 free throw attempts, the Wizards only nine, but the game was in doubt until the final minute. The Wizards even stayed competitive with John Wall not getting to the line and not shooting well.
As the Wizards go for their second road win of the year against the Raptors, they do so with a developing sense of team. Wall did not get frustrated by a career-low two points against the Magic and still delivered 10 assists and seven rebounds. Shelvin Mack stepped up and had a career-high 12 points, and Nick Young fought through foul trouble and scored 20 points in the fourth quarter.
There are lessons to be had in losses. The Wizards have gone from being a team that would fold when frustrated, to a team that will scrap and fight through frustration. Confidence is also a word that is slowly being used again around the Wizards and they might have confidence from beating the Raptors for their first win of the season.
We are not going to change how we play based on who we are playing, Wittman said discounting any focus on the opposition. You make in-game adjustments depending on how the other team hurts you. The more we can do the same things over and over again is how we will get better on offense and defense.
The Wizards are trying to turn defense into offense and it is working. The Wizards are now second in the NBA in fast-break scoring with 19.3 points-per-game coming in transition. That works out to 21.5 percent of the Wizards scoring and the highest percentage of fast break points in the league.
Like the Wizards, the Raptors have been working hard to make up for other deficiencies with a strong defense. The Raptors recently had a stretch of three straight games when they held opponents below their scoring average. The Nuggets, who average close to 106 points-per-game, only managed 96 points against the Raptors.
Its been a less encouraging story on offense for the Raptors. Andrea Bargnani will not play tonight against the Wizards because of a strained left calf. In 10 games without Bargnani, the Raptors are averaging only 80 points and 39 percent shooting from the field. On Wednesday the Raptors lost to the Celtics, 100-64.