The Wizards look like a different team under new coach Randy Wittman. The team plays faster, hustles more and shows more effort and energy than they did at the beginning of the season. The Wizards still have a long way to go before they can beat good teams, other than the shocking upset they pulled off against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 18, but they no longer look listless, outclassed and defeated by the first quarter, like they often did before Wittman took over.
It's less of an indictment of former coach Flip Saunders' coaching abilities as much as proof that the team really did need to hear a new voice. Wittman has shortened the playbook, simplified things and wants the team to run on offense, run on defense and probably during practice and shoot-arounds as well.
"Our pressure has been good," Wittman said. "Like I said, we hadn't been able to work on it yet, full court, extending it five guys full court. I've gotten our point guards, Shelvin (Mack) and John (Wall) are picking up 84-94 feet."
Wittman's game plan is to take smarter shots, take care of the ball and get back on defense. Against the Orlando Magic, the Wizards played an impressive first half, including a 20-5 run to take the lead, albeit while Dwight Howard was on the bench.
But unlike the last time these two teams played, when the Wizards were destroyed 103-85 on Jan. 4, the Wizards made a game of this one, losing in the closing seconds, 109-103. The free throw disparity was a huge factor in this one. The Magic went to the line 39 times; the Wizards nine.
The Wizards' next opponent is the Raptors in Toronto on Friday.
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