Riding a two-game winning streak with wins against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets, the Washington Wizards left Verizon Center with high hopes for a three-game road trip. They have two down and one to go, and an 0-2 start wasn't exactly what they were hoping for.
On Nov. 10, Washington lost an overtime heartbreaker to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 106-105, with Bradley Beal scoring a career-high 34 points, including six 3-pointers. Beal went toe-to-toe with three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, who finished with 33 points and 13 rebounds. If not for the Wizards' 13 missed free throws, they might have had a chance to steal one. Still, coach Randy Wittman found some positives when talking about the loss.
"Coming into a place like this, and going 13-for-26 and you still have a chance to win the game … this one hurt," Wittman said. "I'm proud of them. They busted their tails and gave themselves a chance."
Nene, who was ejected during the fourth quarter following a skirmish with Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, also seemed to use the defeat as a learning experience.
"It's hard to swallow this kind of loss," Nene said, "but I know that we will review the game and we will learn of lot of things from this loss. I think if we come to the next game and play like that, we will be fine."
In other words, it's yet another game the Wizards will have to put into the dreaded moral victory column.
Stop two of the road trip was against the Dallas Mavericks Nov. 12. On this night, it was Trevor Ariza with the hot hand, leading the Wizards with 27 points, including five 3-pointers.
But once again, it was not the outcome Washington had hoped for, losing to Dallas, 105-95. The Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, an 11-time All-Star, had a night to remember (19 points), moving past Jerry West into 16th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
"It has been a great ride," Nowitzki said. "This is my 16th season, and hopefully I can pass a couple of more guys and win a couple more games and hopefully help this franchise make the playoffs."
Although the Mavericks pulled off the 10-point victory to improve to 5-3, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said the win was harder than it looked.
"It's hard keeping [John] Wall from the rim," Carlisle said. "It's hard keeping [Al] Harrington from shooting open 3s. It's hard keeping Nene from going crazy in the paint. I think the guy we did a great job on was [Bradley] Beal. [Trevor] Ariza broke out with a bunch of 3s. You're happy to survive it, but that's a good young team."
The Wizards don't have time to dwell on lost games and missed opportunities. They have their first back-to-back games of the season, with the second coming Nov. 13 against the San Antonio Spurs. It's a matchup of polar opposites, with the Spurs sitting atop the Western Conference at 7-1, while the Wizards are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference at 2-5.
"[The Wizards are] young guys that are very close to taking a quantum leap," Carlisle said. "We wanted to prevent them from taking a big leap tonight, and it was hard."