The second week of the new year has been a key example of who the Washington Wizards are this season: a middling team.

Feasting on the league’s worst teams and succumbing to those with a .500 record and better, the Wizards currently sport a 2-15 mark against teams with a winning record. The Wizards simply lack the talent to compete against the upper-echelon teams, and recent blowouts against the Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets are evidence of that.

Sun. Jan. 5: Wizards Fall Off Pace in 112-96 Loss to Golden State
Washington kept it close for a half against the streaking Warriors, but Golden State entered a Sunday evening matchup as winners of eight straight games and used a 19-point third quarter advantage to drop Washington, 112-96.

The game was tied 58-58 at halftime with Washington moving the ball and keeping pace with the high-tempo Warriors. But a slew of missed shots and failed defensive assignments allowed the third quarter to slip away. John Wall tied for the team lead with 14 points, but he and backcourt mate Bradley Beal combined to shoot just 8-of-26 from the field for a combined 23 points. Wizards fans tout Washington’s backcourt as one of the best in the league, but it was Golden State’s backcourt of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry who dominated, combining for 40 points and draining seven 3-pointers.

Tues. Jan 7: Booker Ignites 97-83 Win over Charlotte
Mired in a three-game losing streak, Washington had to bounce back on the road Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats—and they did, with five players scoring in double digits to drop the Bobcats, 97-83.

Unheralded power forward Trevor Booker sparked a big third quarter run that saw Washington expand a four-point halftime lead to as many as 18 points. Charlotte made a fourth-quarter run behind Gerald Henderson’s 27 points, but Washington rallied to fight off the comeback. Marcin Gortat powered the club with 18 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

Wed. Jan. 8: Wizards Hold Off Pelicans, 102-96
The Wizards visited the New Orleans Pelicans in the second game of a back-to-back tilt and played nearly the same game, building a huge lead before fighting off a spirited comeback in a 102-96 victory.

Washington again built a sizable lead and was ahead by 21 points at the top of the fourth quarter before New Orleans charged back, cutting the deficit to single digits with under three minutes left in the game. With their lead down to six points, Trevor Ariza hit a 3-pointer to push it back to nine points. Ariza finished the night with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Wall added 20 points and six assists.

Fri. Jan. 10: Pacers Defense Locks Down Wizards, 93-66
The first of another set of back-to-back games proved to be too much for the Wizards to handle, as Washington never stood a chance against Indiana on the road in a 93-66 blowout.

The Wizards failed to top 20 points in any quarter and could only muster a pathetic 29 points in the second half. The Pacers have one of the top defenses in the league, and it was on display as they clamped down. The Wizards’ offense was simply disgusting, shooting just 32 percent from the field and a befuddling 39 percent from the free throw line. Washington’s leading scorer, Bradley Beal, made just six of 18 shots to finish with 17 points. As a measuring stick for the franchise, it was clear the Wizards have a long way to go before they’re ready to compete with the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Sat. Jan. 11: Water Leak, Rockets Leave Wizards All Wet, 114-107
A wacky and wet game awaited the team back home at the Verizon Center against the Rockets. A water leak shut down play for nearly an hour, but the Wizards rallied back from 25 points down to take a fourth quarter lead, only to lose the game 114-107.

The game was tied at 29-29 in the second quarter before one of two water leaks delayed action for more than 35 minutes. Though play officially resumed, Washington appeared to stop playing as they watched Houston go on a 34-17 run to close the first half. After a second leak extended halftime an extra 20 minutes, Washington sleepwalked into a 25-point deficit before ending the third quarter with a 8-0 run. The Wizards blasted out of the gates in the final quarter, starting the period with a 25-3 run with Wall leading a breaking attack; Wall and Ariza led the night with 23 points apiece. Despite the effort, Rockets guard James Harden rallied his team with a 3-pointer with less than two minutes to go to seal the win.

Unless a trade is in the works to acquire another piece, Washington seems unlikely to break their trend of beating lesser teams and losing to the better ones. Unless Wall and Beal rev up their offensive games and morph into a high-scoring backcourt, the Wizards have no way to make up for the lack of talent on their roster when facing the league’s best teams.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO