Yes, it happened again, another late meltdown for the Wizards away from Verizon Center, this time 115-106 to the New York Knicks:
The Wizards are now 0-21 on the road and well within sight of the record of 0-29. The next four road games start Friday: at Oklahoma City, at Memphis, at Dallas, at New Orleans. If Washington can’t get through this next stretch without a surprise victory, it’s all to play for from there because no team – including Cleveland - wants to be the team that lets the streak end. The problem is, it's the Wizards who keeping letting the streak continue.
After tonight’s loss to New York, the win over Boston is clearly the fluke among the last three games. And that means that the Wizards are far from having turned the corner. There are times in any game, home or away, when the Wizards will show their mettle, be it through Nick Young getting hot, JaVale McGee throwing down an alley oop or getting up for a rebound, John Wall running the floor or even athletic plays from Trevor Booker. But the only thing that is really predictable about the Wizards, especially on the road, is their inability to execute down the stretch. They were outscored, 20-11, in the final nine minutes, 52 seconds by the Knicks.
At the Garden, the Wizards couldn’t keep pace – again – with an up-tempo opponent. Similar to the loss to Phoenix on Friday, Washington played well at times early but was spent by the time the fourth quarter started, unable to stay mentally focused enough to make the extra effort on defense and utterly incapable of creating a good shot on offense. A 23-6 run in the second quarter was nice, but ultimately irrelevant. The only reason that the Wizards held on as long as they did was the determined offensive play of Young, Wall and Rashard Lewis in the third quarter. But even then, there wasn’t much rhythm to the Wizards’ flow, and even Young’s little scoring streak was an early sign of hero ball right out of the halftime break. In contrast, New York never got greedy and was always ready to take what Washington was giving.
Speaking of hero ball, what was Andray Blatche doing on the floor late in the fourth quarter? The substitution patterns of Wizards head coach Flip Saunders continue to baffle in games when the team is struggling, and again he decided against taking a hard line with Blatche. Dray had a terrible night from the start, yet the Wizards went to him repeatedly down the stretch while Yi Jianlian and Hilton Armstrong barely saw anything that would resemble garbage time. Mustafa Shakur was inspirational in the second quarter yet was yanked only three minutes into the fourth after John Wall had played the entire third period.
Up to a certain point, the responsibility for Washington’s road losing streak could’ve been on the players alone. But it’s long since the time when this whole roadkill thing was just a fluky statistic. After 21 games in a row, it’s not unreasonable to say that the inability to win away from the Verizon Center is as much Saunders’s problem as it is his players’. The longer it goes on, the more eyes are going to turn to toward the front office, whose cheerleading is starting to look like little more than complacence.