April 3, 2012 - Three of the last four home games have not been kind to the Washington Wizards, as they have blown double digit, second half leads in three consecutive Verizon Center contests, with that streak being broken during the last, a Friday, 97-76 blowout of Philadelphia. The story seems to be stunningly similar in each defeat' Washington's home team couldn't close their house.
First of the setbacks was the March 22nd 85-83 loss to the Indiana Pacers, where the Wizards led by 22 points early in the third quarter, 11 early in the fourth. Two days later, the Wizards hosted Atlanta and enjoyed a 16 point late, third quarter advantage, before losing 95-92.
Washington fell to Boston in Bean Town on Sunday by 88-76, never leading, which was followed a day later by last Monday's 79-77 home defeat, at the hands of Detroit's Pistons; enjoying a 12 point lead with 8:49 in regulation, victory seemed securable for coach Randy Whittman's team.
Breaking their then three game home losing streak (fourth overall) was not in the cards. Detroit steadily decreased their deficit, taking their first lead since early in the second half with just under a minute play, when guard Rodney Stuckey hit a three pointer. The Wizards flipped that 15 seconds later, after Nene's short hook.
The drama didn't stop there. With 23.1 seconds before the final horn, former Georgetown student-athlete Greg Monroe shook off foul trouble - he was benched after committing his fifth foul over 14 minutes of game time previously - and notched a key tip in. His teammate, Ben Wallace, scored one of two free throws 12 seconds later, to which Nene answered with his seventh and eight points, splashing another hook.
The game was then tied at 77, Detroit ball. Though the Wiz had blown a lead, surely overtime was in the offering. In a word, nope, as Stuckey nailed a fairly uncontested jump shot just off the top of the key. The shot brought his point total to 24, 10 being dropped in the second half.
How did it, again, come to this? Is it the fact Washington starts only one player with more than a year of National Basketball experience (Nene being a ninth year vet)? Or that its bench this Monday night boasted a pair of rookies, along with two veteran players, again evidencing young players feeling their way in the league?
That's definitely part of it; the NBA is known as a veteran's league for a reason. Nevertheless Whittman, would not rest on his team's lack of experience as an excuse. After noting "At some point we have to get to the point where we get a lead don't just play to play", including running offensive sets with a purpose and "we've got to put them away" after enjoying leads, Whittman indicated: "If you keep running into the same guy and he keeps punching you in the face, you are going to learn to put your hands up aren't you?...You have to tighten the screws even more when you've got a team down".
Whittman continued, acknowledging "it is a learning experience, to answer your question. How long it takes, I don't know. We'll see. But we're going to keep trying".
Jordan Crawford led the Wizards with 20 points, while also dropping five dimes. Fellow backcourt mate John Wall notched a game high nine assists himself, adding also 14 points and seven rebounds.
Stuckey was lead scorer for the Pistons (17-32) and game, while Monroe notched 10 points and eight rebounds, despite the aforementioned foul trouble. Veteran forward Tayshaun Prince finished with 18 points and a pair of boards, while rookie notched eight points, six rebounds and seven assists.
For Monroe's post game comments, see our Premium Court message board.