Hanging tough not enough for Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Solid play on the road not turning into results

Wizards coach Randy Wittman understood the greater forces working against his team before it departed on its current five-game road trip.

"It's a different game on the road. It's a different game," Wittman comfortably admitted even though the Wizards had won three games in a row heading into the trip after last week's blowout of Orlando.

The Wizards (8-30) left town the next day, and they have lost two of three games since. But they were close to being 3-0 heading into visits to Portland (20-20) and Utah (22-19).

Up next
Wizards at Trail Blazers
When » Monday, 10 p.m.
Where » Rose Garden,
Portland, Ore.
TV » CSN

In the fourth quarter of Washington's 95-94 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday, John Wall missed a crucial pair of free throws in the final minute, and he and his teammates committed five turnovers and shot 6-for-17 (35.3 percent) from the field.

In the second half of Saturday's 94-87 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers, who have lost just twice in 20 home games, they committed nine turnovers and converted just nine of 12 free throw attempts (52.9 percent).

"I know we can be 2-1 for sure," Wall told reporters after the Clippers game. "You just move forward. We got two more games we can win, and then we end the trip on a good note."

It has been nearly five years since the Wizards finished any road trip of three games or more with a winning record. The last time was February 2008, when Washington beat New Orleans and Chicago on either side of a loss to Houston.

It has been even longer since the Wizards had more wins than losses during a five-game road stint. In March 2005, Washington lost to Denver, beat Utah and lost to the Clippers before topping Seattle and Portland in succession to go 3-2. Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes combined for 53 points to close out the trip with a 114-106 win over the Trail Blazers.

Eight years later, Wall and Bradley Beal will lead the Wizards into Portland, where the Blazers have lost a season-worst five games in a row. The Wizards earned their first win of the season over Portland at home on Nov. 28. In that game, Beal had just five points while rookie point guard Damian Lillard was one of two Blazers with 20.

It was the kind of performance that has kept Lillard at the top of the rookie of the year race for the entire season. But while his overall numbers (18.3 points per game, 6.6 assists per game) remain impressive, Beal has closed the gap, averaging 18.6 points on 47.6 percent shooting from the field (60.4 percent from 3-point range) over 10 games in January. He fought through a sore wrist injured in a hard fall against Denver on Friday to hit a trio of 3-pointers in the second half Saturday in Los Angeles.

Wall is coming off a season-high 24 points and season-high 31 minutes against the Clippers, an indication that his return to the Wizards' starting lineup could happen soon. That could add to the potential of a team that has played as if anything is possible since he returned to the court.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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