WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- If the Wizards were three games out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, their 95-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks would have been heartbreaking.
But in reality, Washington's embarrassing 14 point fourth quarter on Saturday at the Verizon Center is the reason they are the second worst team in the NBA.
In the closing 12 seconds against the Hawks, Washington -- trailing by three points -- had no plan of action. At all. Even after leading Atlanta by as many as 16. And only some of it is head coach Randy Wittman's fault. The Wizards need another necessary piece to their peculiar puzzle of a roster.
The Hawks perfectly executed what any NBA playoff team would call on defense during the closing moments: play harassing defense on Washington's only feasible shooting options, Jordan Crawford and Roger Mason Jr. Subsequently, John Wall misfired an off balanced game-winning attempt from behind the arc. The three-point miss was his 25th in 23 chances this season and Wall shot a dreadful 1-for-10 on the night. He finished with eight points.
For the second straight game it was Wall's misjudgment of the clock which costed Washington at the buzzer. I semi-agree with newly appointed leader Nene, who said that these losses will serve as learning experiences for the Wizards.
"I'm proud of my team. We played hard. I think you guys saw, we worked really, really hard. But [this] will happen. We lost. But we're learning," commented Nene.
But it should also be a learning experience to the Wizards front office. More outside shooters will become mandatory if the Wizards want to succeed.
Nick Young, believe it or not, was the most clutch player on the roster. Now that he's in Los Angeles, the Wizards will continue to struggle in tight contests. The mostly under 26-year-old players on the roster (there's nine of them) aren't used to playing in close games, well, because...they've been getting creamed in most losing attempts. Washington's last few minute offensive strategy feels the driving over train tracks. Intense half court defensive sets and settling for poor shots from the outside becomes a crutch for the entire team.
Young comes alive when key moments are magnetized in an NBA affair. The six-year veteran was instrumental down the stretch in close wins against the Thunder, Lakers, Raptors and the Bobcats. Those are nearly half of the Wizards 11 wins on the season. Whatever your opinion on Young is, he was an experienced shooter. Especially when his shots were needed the most.
The last two second half collapses against Indiana and Atlanta prove my point that Washington needs to select someone in the 2012 NBA draft who can calm these fourth quarter woes, and become the creative guard with a three-point shot. Maybe it's Bradley Beal, maybe it's Jeremy Lamb. Possibly it is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Whoever it is will have to be counted on more than the current rookie class of Chris Singleton, Shelvin Mack and poor Jan Vesely.
Rebounding and the post position are not serious enough issues to waste another lottery pick on an athletic forward. Last year the Wizards punted a draft pick on Vesely because "he was the best player available," and the organization had needs everywhere but point guard. That won't fly this off-season. If the lack of credible outside scoring options is not fully addressed, the Wizards will continue to draft in the lottery and John Wall will -- and should -- walk to another team in 2015.
Great franchises in this league find themselves in close games more often than not. Obviously, the Wizards are trying to become a great team. You saw Joe Johnson for Atlanta score nine of his 16 points in the fourth, as well as hit the game-defining three with 46 seconds left. Even tied at 93 apiece, I knew Washington's fate had been sealed. Without their all-star perimeter player, the Hawks would've been toast in D.C. Call him overrated if you want, but with Johnson's scoring abilities, Atlanta can always rear a comeback, handle the heat in the fourth quarter and make the playoffs.
While Jordan Crawford may put up similar stats to those of Nick Young, there is no way this organization should be giving him the keys to the offense down the stretch in 2012-2013. Crawford dominated the ball for most of the game, a dominant reason for Wall's off night. I can agree it worked for a large part of the game, but Crawford legitimately always goes cold during a stretch of the game.
Please Washington, take someone who can score from the perimeter in the fourth quarter during this year's draft.
What the Wizards had to say
John Wall on going 1-for-10 from the field: "They gave me my shots, I just missed them. I'm holding my jump shot too long and falling short on most of my shots."
Roger Mason Jr. on the loss: "We're playing a whole lot better. We fought for three and a half quarters. To lose two games like this...I really just feel like we gave them away.
John Wall on comparing the last two losses: "Every game that coach Wittman has coached in...we've been in most of them. Either we won the close ones, or lost the close ones like this, or gave up a big lead...We just got to be a team that executes down the stretch."
Trevor Booker on the collapse: "Once they started coming back, it was like, here we go again. It might've caused some frustrations, might've led to some other things."
*The minute count: Crawford-36, Nene-33, Booker-32, Wall-31, Singleton-29, Ubiles-18, Mack-16, Vesely-15, Seraphin-14 and Mason-12.
*The shot attempt count: Crawford-19, Nene-13, Singleton-11, Wall-10, Booker-8, Ubiles-8, Mack-6, Seraphin-5, Mason-3, Vesely-2.
*The Wizards shot 51.1% in the first half but only 37.5% in the second.
*Washington scored 14 fourth quarter points. Two from Booker, three from Nene, six from Edwin Ubiles and three from Mason Jr. Ugly.
*The Hawks had 22 assists. The Wizards had 13, including zero in the fourth quarter.
*The Wizards were 12-for-14 from the free throw line.