WASHINGTON –Nobody in the locker room would admit it, but the facts are evident: the Washington Wizards are running out of time to secure a playoff spot.
Washington (35-36) fell to the Atlanta Hawks (42-30) 122-101 at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night. It was a far-from-inspiring performance that made the Wizards’ previous five-game win streak look like a mirage rather than the norm.
“I wouldn’t call it a setback,” Wizards guard John Wall said.
Wall’s teammates echoed his sentiment and even with just 11 regular-season games remaining, the Wizards remain optimistic.
“We still have life, there’s still a great chance for us to get into the playoffs,” Wizards guard Garrett Temple said. “If we win five in a row again, we’ll be alright.”
Five in a row could be ambitious for the Wizards, who have a date with the unbelievably spectacular Golden State Warriors (64-7) next week as part of a five-game West Coast road trip. More bad news for Wizards fans: Golden State is undefeated at home this season and 77-2 at Oracle Arena over the past two seasons.
Washington hasn’t had a winning record since Nov. 24.
As the 10th seed, the Wizards currently sit two-and-a-half games back from the final two playoff spots behind Indiana and Detroit. Chicago is in 9th place and a game ahead of Washington.
Washington defeated the Hawks in Atlanta on Monday night, 117-102, and led by four at halftime, but couldn’t replicate the success down the stretch on Wednesday.
“Everything we focused on and did in Atlanta, 50/50 balls they beat us to,“ head coach Randy Wittman said. “They had more offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone than they did in the entire game in Atlanta. That was really the difference.”
Washington’s bench was also outscored, 66-37. Atlanta backup point guard Dennis Schroder was the difference maker, scoring 23 points and dishing out eight assists in just 20 minutes.
Newly acquired Wizards guard Marcus Thornton said Schroder’s ability to get in the paint and create scoring opportunities for his teammates as well as find his own shot made him difficult to stop on Wednesday night.
“He had the best of both worlds tonight, hats off to him. He had a good game,” Thornton said.
Thornton also had an impressive day himself, scoring 23 points on 50 percent shooting, despite scoring a bulk of those points in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
“Playing with (John Wall), it’s easy out there,” Thornton said. “It’s just on me to knock it down. I felt comfortable out there.”
Washington plays the lowly Timberwolves (23-48) on Friday night before heading on their West Coast road trip. Minnesota is 11-25 on the road and Washington defeated the Timberwolves earlier in the month, 104-98 in Minneapolis.
According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, Washington has a 13 percent chance of making the playoffs, while Detroit has a 63 percent chance and Chicago has a 30 percent chance.
Numbers and standings be damned, the Wizards are taking it one game at a time.
“We just gotta get on another win streak. We know we have another game Friday,” Thornton said.
“Let this one go,” Wizards forward Markieff Morris said. “We gotta play with desperation. Of course, we need a little bit of help. We just have to put a couple together like we did.”