The Washington Wizards have had their share of issues over the past several seasons, but possibly none more glaring than their inability to finish out close games down the stretch. Without a superstar player on the roster like LeBron James or Kevin Durant, teams relying on younger talent have inevitably struggled finishing games in the fourth quarter. Over the past several weeks, the Wizards have managed to beat opposing teams in the fourth quarter which we haven’t seen in quite some time.
Last night, the Wizards didn’t play inspired basketball for the majority of the game against the Milwaukee Bucks but they still had enough fuel to close out the game in overtime. In the past, Washington would’ve crumbled under those circumstances but it finally seems like they’re learning how to finish games on a high note. Instead of deviating from swinging the ball or running the offense from inside-out, the Wizards have progressively gotten better at scoring the ball when a bucket is needed the most. Prior to this season, the Wizards have relied on bail out isolation shots for fourth quarter points down the stretch, but a few mishaps early on in the season have really helped learn from their mistakes.
Washington dropped a very winnable game on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder by one point in overtime after being up by as much as double-digits in the final moments of the game. From that point on, the Wizards have closed games against the Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and most recently the Bucks. Randy Wittman has talked about wanting his team to play differently in the final minutes of the game and his team seems to have responded well to his criticism, judging from their recent performances:
We as a group need to understand, that the last four minutes of the game have to be, not should be or might be, have to be played differently than the other 44 minutes. We play the last four minutes like it’s the first quarter, where you may be able to test some things. When it’s crunch time in the last four minutes, it has to be played differently, we continue to play it like it’s the first 40 minutes of the game. That’s where you win and lose.
John Wall has really emerged as a leader for this Wizards team, especially in the fourth quarter. Aside from last night’s game, John Wall has really done a great job scoring the ball in clutch situations. The Wizards still do a poor job in keeping leads, but for the most part, Wall has led his team to victory multiple times in the fourth quarter. Virtually every game the Wizards have played this season has been close and due to their lack of bench productivity, this might be a common occurrence throughout the rest of the season. Thankfully for the Wizards, Wall has continuously knocked down clutch jump shots and free throws to will his team to victory. Not to mention, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster have also been huge contributors in the fourth quarter.
Times have changed for the Washington Wizards. We’re used to seeing them completely fall apart when the going gets tough, but lately they’ve done a great job closing out games resulting in wins. Let’s hope their new found closing ability continues trending upward.