The Washington Wizards are hitting the road for seven of its next eight games, beginning Tuesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Wizard head coach Scott Brooks said to reporters after practice Monday the team’s first priority must be on the defensive end.
“We have to do a much better job closing out games,” Brooks said. “It seems like [in] every loss we had, we’ve had chances to win the game. I mentioned to the guys in film session, it’s correctable. We put ourselves into a position to win the game, but we can’t make the mistakes that we made.”
The Wizards (10-9) blew fourth-quarter leads in both of their previous two games, losses to the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers.
On Saturday, Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum helped erase a 17-point Wizards lead in the fourth quarter despite being straddled with five fouls. McCollum scored 13 points in the final stanza, included the eventual game-winning bucket with 20.7 seconds left.
Brooks on Monday defended his decision not to attack McCollum once he began heating up, saying he’s against targeting a defender just because he’s in foul trouble.
“I personally don’t like to attack guys in that situation because a lot of times you get out of the rhythm of your offense,” he said. “Some teams go out of their way to post up a smaller player, [but] very rarely does it work. That had no bearing on the loss [Saturday].”
Without Wall in the lineup for at least the next six games, Brooks has preached “next man up” mentality and said it will help the team come together on the road trip.
Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler rank fourth and seventh respectively in average minutes per game, forward Nemanja Bjelica has the league’s top three-point percentage at 51 percent and center Karl-Anthony Towns is tied for sixth in the league in rebounding at 11.5 per game.
The Wizards will finish the back-to-back set Wednesday on the road against the youthful but talented Philadelphia 76ers (11-7). Washington closes out the week at home Friday against the Detroit Pistons (12-6) before heading west for four games in six days.
Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, who leads the team in scoring, will also be looked upon as the team’s playmaker.
Despite missing a potential go-ahead shot in the waning seconds of the loss to Portland, Beal said he won’t shy away from such opportunities.
“I don’t try it to make it about me,” he said. “If I feel like a teammate’s open, I’m going to pass it to him. At the same time, I like the pressure situations. It doesn’t bother me. I feel like those are just learning lessons and just growing pains for me. I’m still young … my game is still developing, [but] if I want to be the player I want to be, I have to be able to knock down those shots.”