A night after an impressive win Friday over the Chicago Bulls, the Washington Wizards remained confounded about the key to performing with consistency, a problem that has helped bury them at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. In losing at Milwaukee 109-93 on Saturday, the Wizards were outgunned, outrebounded and outworked despite facing a team without its leading scorer in Michael Redd and starting center Andrew Bogut. The previous night, the Wizards - playing in front of President Barack Obama - moved the ball around and had eight players score in double digits in a 113-90 victory.
After each of their wins - which have come with great infrequency - the Wizards (14-45) have talked about the importance of building on positives. But instead of putting forth the balanced, well-executed show required, they instead take steps backward and come away wondering how they failed to sustain quality play.
Against the Bucks, the Wizards got outrebounded 37-31, committed 17 turnovers and allowed Milwaukee to shoot 11-for-19 from the 3-point range. The Wizards also experienced a drop-off in production; only Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Nick Young scored in double figures.
How to solve the recurring regressions remains a mystery, however.
"If I knew [the answer to] that question, believe me, it'd be at the top of the list," said Jamison, the team's leading scorer and rebounder this season. "It shouldn't take the president of the United States to come in for you to play with a certain type of energy, certain type of confidence and so forth. ... We're what, 59 games into the season, and I've been trying to figure it out all season"
Wizards coach Ed Tapscott continues to preach the importance of disciplined team play, high energy and strong execution while making tweaks to his rotation, but the results have been minimal.
The Wizards will try to find Friday's form when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Monday before heading on a four-game, seven-day road trip with stops in Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Dallas and Minnesota.
The Hawks, who are the fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference with a 33-25 record, can wrap up the season series over the Wizards with a 4-0 record, having already won twice in Atlanta and once in the District.
Washington has yet to defeat a Southeast Division opponent this season, losing its first 12 games.
The Wizards played the Hawks evenly in their first two meetings, losing by four points both times. In the third meeting, however, with Atlanta fully healthy (they were missing starters Josh Smith and Al Horford in the first two games) Washington was trounced 111-90 on Feb. 10.
ATLANTA Hawks at WASHINGTON Wizards
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Verizon Center
TV/radio: CSN, ESPN 980
Probable starters: Hawks - F Marvin Williams, F Josh Smith, C Al Horford, G Joe Johnson, G Mike Bibby. Wizards - F Dominic McGuire, F Antawn Jamison, C Darius Songaila, G Caron Butler, G Mike James.
Injuries: Hawks: Out - Speedy Claxton (knee). Wizards - Out: G DeShawn Stevenson (back), G Gilbert Arenas (knee), C Andray Blatche (knee), C Etan Thomas (knee), Brendan Haywood (wrist).
Outlook: The Wizards will try to avoid a season sweep by the Hawks as well as grab their first Southeast Division victory of the season; they enter the game with an 0-3 record against Atlanta and 0-12 mark in the division. This game will be Washington's last at Verizon Center until March 11 as it will embark on a four-game road trip with stops in Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Dallas and Minnesota. The Hawks, led by Joe Johnson (21.4 ppg), boast six double-digit scorers and score an average of 98.6 points a game (17th in the league).