Flirting With .500: The Last Seven Times The Wizards Failed To Break Through
The Wizards are a young team. They are a tantalizing team.
They are not a winning team.
Tonight’s game against the Trailblazers will be the eighth time Washington’s tried to move above .500 this season. (It’s also the franchise’s twelfth straight attempt to get past .500, dating back to the 2009 season.)
This is not news. If anything, it’s a story that the Wizards just don’t want to hear—especially after they’ve beaten great teams like Miami and Oklahoma City, only to fritter away easy opportunities to get over the hump.
“We’re aware of it, but we just have to not even think about it,” Bradley Beal said a few weeks ago.
At Truth About It, we do have to think about it, write on it, and then think about it some more. Extended musing on mediocrity can be hazardous to a fan’s health: several TAI writers are still undergoing emergency cardiothoracic surgery, given how frequently our hearts have been broken by each Washington near-miss. (Hence the kind substitution from one of our friends at Bullets Forever.)
So be warned before you keep reading: We’re presenting a painful look back at the seven times this season when the Wizards blew their chance to get over .500.
And if past is precedent, we’ll be updating this timeline again in the near future.
Clippers 110, Wizards 103
Key moment: When the Wizards went to the “Hack-a-DeAndre” Jordan gimmick late in the fourth quarter, TAI’s Conor Dirks says—and Jordan proceeded to make four straight free throws even as Bradley Beal missed a pair of his own. “There was no need to foul after the Wizards’ defense played so well against the Warriors and in that game,” Conor says, “and the decision to play the foul game went wrong.”
Level of heartbreak: About a six out of ten. “Reasonable minds probably didn’t expect the game to be winnable before it started, or at halftime,” Conor points out.
Jazz 104, Wizards 101
Key moment: “It may not be the moment, but a key moment that underscored the team’s attitude the entire night was this shot by Wall,” says Amin Vafa of Bullets Forever. “They just forced a turnover and got into position, then Wall grabs the ball and forces a jumper with 16 seconds left on the clock. Why? No idea. My best guess is fatigue from playing on the second night of a back-to-back on the road.”
Level of heartbreak: A four out of ten. “I wasn’t that broken up about it, and the team’s apathy had made me numb by the end of the game,” Amin says.
Celtics 113, Wizards 111 (OT)
Key moment: Washington came out flat in the first half, TAI’s Adam McGinnis notes, and the team also settled for lots of last-second jumpers rather than driving to the basket. But the defining moment came late in regulation: With the teams tied at 92, and the Wizards on a two-on-one break to take the lead, Boston’s Phil Pressey tied up John Wall as Washington’s point guard tried to sky toward the hoop. “It should have been an easy layup,” Adam says. “Instead, Pressey got a jump ball—and won.”
Level of heartbreak: About a nine. The entire TAI team can agree: this was a brutal loss.
Pistons 104, Wizards 98
Key moment: When the Wizards’ eight-point halftime lead immediately evaporated, as Josh Smith led the Pistons on a 17-6 run to start the third quarter. But as TAI’s John Converse Townsend points out, “Nene was able to tie the game at 88 with a pair of free throws with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Then Rodney Stuckey, career Wizards-killer, grabbed the wheel.”
Stuckey scored seven of the Pistons next nine points to take a commanding 97-90 lead with just 2:30 to play. “Detroit: rolling,” John says. “Washington: flattened.”
Level of heartbreak: In honor of that blown halftime lead, at least an eight. The Wizards were fresh off wins over the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls; they should’ve been able to handle Detroit.
Mavericks 87, Wizards 78
Key moment: Bradley Beal’s body language wasn’t great, says Kyle Weidie, TAI founder and editor-in-chief. But the key moment was “when Vince Carter got hot in the fourth quarter and scored seven of his 13 points,” Kyle notes that Carter’s efforts later spurred a 9-0 Dallas run that put them up 79-74 with a little over two minutes left in the game. Meanwhile, the Wizards settled for jumper after jumper.
Level of heartbreak: About a seven, Kyle says, “compartmentalizing that Dallas is actually a decent team and the ‘New Year’s Day’ hangover.”
Bucks 109, Wizards 105 (OT)
Key moment: When Washington’s five-point lead vanished in the final minute of regulation, as Wall and Chris Singleton missed shots and the whole team failed to get stops.
Level of heartbreak: A 9.5, to reflect the pregame line. “Porous defense, turnovers in the clutch,” TAI’s John Converse Townsend wrote at the time. “It was a vintage #SoWizards showcase.”
Pistons 113, Wizards 102
Key moment: There was a moment in the first fourth quarter of the brand-new season that felt … well, like the same old Wizards, TAI’s Rashad Mobley notes. “All the excitement was about Beal and Wall, and how much they would be spearheading the new-and-improved Wizards to the playoffs’ promised land,” Rashad says. “But they struggled down the stretch.” To say the least: in one sequence, Beal missed an open 3 and Wall committed a charging foul, even as Chauncey Billups hit back-to-back 3s to swell the Pistons’ lead to 13.
Level of heartbreak: About a seven, Rashad says, given the high expectations and the cold dose of reality. “We always seem to lose to the Pistons, and it’s always Will Bynum-involved, and that’s exactly what happened that night.”
To the avoidance of John Wall sad faces…