The Washington Wizards led by as many as 7 points Monday yet fell 96-94 to Isaiah Thomas and the visiting Sacramento Kings. Thomas scored a team-high 22 points, including the game-winner, as Washington scrambled to get in front of the second-year guard out of Washington. Wizards center Emeka Okafor made the home team look like the early favorite with a game-high 23 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 assists in defeat.
"We didn't have anybody that could guard him (Thomas). I couldn't find anybody that could guard him tonight," lamented Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman postgame. "That was disappointing--in terms of taking a challenge--especially as the game went on. He (Thomas) got anywhere he wanted tonight--right, left--and the kid made the play at the end." Washington held a 57-53 lead at halftime and Thomas had scored only 8 of his 22 points on the night. He added 4 in the third and closed the fourth with 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field.
Tied-up 94-all with 7.9 seconds left in the fourth, Coach Wittman decided to substitute reserve Garrett Temple for Jordan Crawford, and Emeka Okafor for Trevor Ariza. Rookie Bradley Beal remained on the bench while John Wall joined Temple in the backcourt. Nene and Martell Webster filled out the final two spots, with Nene guarding Kings in-bounder Francisco Garcia.
Temple--who played only 13 seconds, total, of the game--had the task of stopping Thomas (thank you to Shel for typo correction), while Wall stood idle along the baseline guarding Jimmer Fredette. Ariza helped Temple fight a screen as Ariza guarded Tyreke Evans. Fredette had scored 7 points up to that point while Evans had scored 13; the choice to leave both Wall and Ariza, two of Washington's better defenders, off Thomas, is questionable, at best. To make matters worse, Coach Wittman did not seem to have a clear grasp of the situation when asked postgame.
"Well, I wanted to try something different," began Wittman, in defense of his late-game line-up changes. "I think that actually the switch, got into a switch, I'll have to look at the play. We went small to switch everything. I'll have to look to see if Garrett actually started on him. Garrett is one of our better one-on-one defenders." Garrett--who played for the D-League just a little over a month ago--didn't have the stuff to stay in front of Thomas.
"It was just a switch, and they set screens and we switched off and it was tough for him to put him in that situation especially just not playing the whole game and getting right in," said Wall, regarding the difficult task Garret had in guarding Thomas. Wall finished with 19 points and 6 assists in his first loss as a starter this season (2-1). "We know we're in a situation where we can win these games. We have the talent to do it, we just didn't execute. Had a couple of mis-directions and turnovers down the stretch and just didn't get the defensive stops that we needed."
In addition to the confusion and misdirection regarding Thomas, Coach Wittman seemed to be at odds with Beal, who he sat for most of the fourth quarter. "I thought he was hurting, I just didn't see the comfort level out there," said Wittman postgame, regarding Beal. "I think his wrist is bothering him. I haven't spoken to him, if it got jammed again or whatever. The decisions, I just didn't think--I think it's bothering him, there's no question." Yet while Wittman seemed ready to put Beal on injured reserve, Beal told the media he was ready to play.
"My wrist is fine. It was tonight, anyway," said Beal. "I'm going to think about it. It didn't affect me tonight. I'm just thinking about talking to my trainers, my agent, and seeing how I feel."
We'll see what Beal's decision is Wednesday, when Washington visits former Wizards shooting guard Nick Young and the Philadelphia 76ers (7:00 p.m. ET, CSN).