Painful couple of games for Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Minor injuries plague them in two recent losses

There are positives and negatives to the latest round of minor injuries that have beset the Wizards.

Some role players -- and even John Wall -- have gotten the chance to play themselves back into better form. But Washington's margin for error is slim even when the team is at full strength. Without more than one dependable scorer and unless the backup forwards can lift their games, the Wizards will continue to have trouble overcoming the fluctuations that are part of a long NBA season.

With Nene (sore right shoulder) sidelined, Wizards coach Randy Wittman has handed starts to Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton in the last two games. Booker hadn't started since November and Singleton since December, and both ended up with the worst plus-minus ratings on the team in losses to Detroit and New York, respectively. Those were the Wizards' first back-to-back home defeats since early January.

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76ers at Wizards
When » Sunday, 6 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center
TV » CSN

Kevin Seraphin, who has struggled for the last month as his playing time has been reduced in a tighter rotation, helped spark a late run against the Pistons but vs. New York was no match for Amar'e Stoudemire.

"It's kind of tough, but it's a great situation for guys like Kevin and Book and Chris to step up and give us rhythm," Wall said after Friday's 96-88 loss to the Knicks. "Tonight Chris couldn't find his rhythm, but he's been playing good lately, and Kevin couldn't find his rhythm also."

Wall snapped out of his own sour mood during 42 minutes on the court against New York, an extended run necessary with A.J. Price hobbled by a quad contusion. While he had 16 points, six assists and three steals, down the stretch fatigue may have been partly to blame for poor shots and unnecessary turnovers.

The Wizards (18-39) remain the only team in the NBA without a player who has scored 30 points in a game. Bradley Beal came close with a career-high 29 points against New York that came in a variety of ways.

His hard drives to the basket, floaters and improvised shots off the dribble -- not to mention his lethal touch from 3-point distance -- are the latest signals that the rookie guard could become an elite-level scorer.

"Beal's kind of created that on his own with the way he's playing, the way he's developing," Wittman said.

But the Wizards can't rely on Beal alone, Wall's game hasn't looked suited for that kind of scoring, and Nene's contributions are more varied. It will make small forward the biggest topic of the offseason.

Trevor Ariza has averaged 15.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in the last five games -- crucial bench production for a defensive specialist who could be a sixth man of the year candidate going forward even if he prefers to be a starter. The Wizards also have to decide on the future of Martell Webster (10.7 ppg), who is on a one-year contract. Recent reports had the Los Angeles Clippers turning down a trade deadline deal for Ariza that would have returned Caron Butler to Washington. That move might have been more disruptive than the latest adversity caused by injuries.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Craig Stouffer

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner