The Wizards gave a reminder that they’re not supposed to be as bad as 3-19 with their 100-95 loss in overtime to the Atlanta Hawks. But they still are.
“It’s always little things that we mess up on,” said the unlikely star of the night, Earl Barron. “We watch the film, little mistakes on offense, like setting screens or cutting hard, things on defense as simple as talking. If we clean up little things like that, the record wouldn’t be nowhere near what it is right now.”
With that, three things:
If there’s any sign that Wizards coach Randy Wittman won’t just sit around and endure this nightmare, he finally used Earl Barron. The backup backup center came off the bench in the second half and then started the second half en route to a game-high 14 rebounds along with four blocks and four points.
He valiantly defended Josh Smith when Emeka Okafor and Chris Singleton couldn’t. He fought on the boards while Kevin Seraphin was in foul trouble. He played 26 minutes, 10 minutes more than he did in Washington’s season opener at Cleveland.
“At halftime he told me I was going to start,” Barron said. “So I just had to prepare myself mentally for the task at hand.”
Barron missed his first eight shots, including six in the fourth quarter alone, but hit from the elbow with 23.0 seconds in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 90. He also gave Washington it’s last lead in overtime, 93-92.
“This guy, there wasn’t a play run for him, and he gets 10 shots, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks – activity,” Wittman said. “I’m not getting enough activity out of that spot. I’m looking for somebody that’s going to step up and show me that, and he did tonight. You can’t just continue along and just go through the motions, and think you’re going to play night-in and night-out.”
So the question becomes, who is the coach referencing in that statement, Okafor or Singleton? Barron, playing in just his ninth game all season, replaced the latter in the second half, but Okafor has to be the guy on notice. He finished with six points and two rebounds in 25 minutes, and he was long gone by the time Barron, whose locker is close by, talked to reporters.
“I know those are shots that I’ll make in the long run, but I just have to keep plugging at it, keep hustling,” Barron said. “My shot wasn’t falling, but I was just trying to do all the little things on the defensive end to help the team.”
Bradley Beal’s hot shooting night was already unraveling by the time he slammed to the floor when Josh Smith blocked his dunk. The rookie hit his first four shots and was 6-for-7 at halftime, but Kyle Korver started to rattle him immediately after the break. Beal missed his first four shots of the third period, finally hitting the fifth off the glass, to his own disbelief. Moments later, he was on the floor clutching his head. He moved to the bench and buried his face in his jersey before heading to the locker room, but it wasn’t long until he was back.
“I was debating [not coming back],” Beal said. “But I didn’t have a concussion. That’s all I was really worried about. I can play through pain in my leg or my back, anything like that. My first instinct was, I’ll pass the test and then I’ll go back out there and see how it feels. And if I feel fine, I’ll just keep playing, and I felt fine. All that was killing me was my back, but other than that I was fine.”
Unfortunately, his shot didn’t return, going 2-for-15 in the second half and overtime.
Jordan Crawford’s triple double was the second of his career – the first came as a rookie on April 1, 2011 (21-11-10 vs. Cleveland) – and the Wizards’ first this season. His shot selection down the stretch still needs work, but he was as efficient and effective running the point as the Wizards could possibly have hoped for most of the game. He also benefitted from a one-on-one battle with Jeff Teague, who popped him in the face in the third quarter. The two got a double technical foul a short time later for jawing at one another.
“I didn’t see why we got the tech,” Crawford said. “We real cool, but on the court you like to see who get the upper hand.”
Wittman said that Crawford plays better with Nene on the floor because Washington can run the play through the big man. (Speaking of Nene, he’s now played 11 games. His first game came on Nov. 21 against Atlanta. That’s essentially a full training camp, and so the Brazilian big man’s minutes need to increase as soon as possible.)
“I’m just getting comfortable each game, going out there playing,” Crawford said. “I don’t have a position, just like to play.”
LeBron James apparently isn’t alone.