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The Last Four Minutes

November 18, 2013

Randy Wittman wasted no time getting right to his central message today. This team needs to learn how to finish games.

"We as a group need to understand, that the last four minutes of the game HAVE to be, not should be or might be, have to be played differently than the other 44 minutes. We play the last four minutes like it's the first quarter, where you may be able to test some things. When it's crunch time in the last four minutes, it has to be played differently, we continue to play it like it's the first 40 minutes of the game. That's where you win and lose.

You should be able to look at a game and good teams, you can be able to tell without a clock or a scoreboard whether it's the last four minutes of the game by how that team's playing. I can't do that looking at our team because we just kind of play. We have to be smarter, more on edge, do whatever it takes to get a rebound, to get a stop, and that sense of urgency has to be different than the first 44 minutes."

This was just his opening statement, but Witt expanded on this topic for another 10 minutes as you can see in the full interview above.   

It's clear that finishing games has become a point of emphasis for this Wizards team, especially after they let another game slip away from their grasp on Saturday night against Cleveland.

The frustrating part about opening 2-7 is that the team feels like they are right there. For the most part, they have been. Of the seven losses, it was only the game in Miami where they really had no chance of winning in the second half. Although the San Antonio game ended up getting out of hand, they were within three midway through the third quarter.

But this game is about wins and losses, not moral wins and being close. And they know that.

The coaches and players echoed these thoughts and know how close they are to being a winning team. But the issue remains to be the final minutes of the game.

John Wall and Bradley Beal both spoke to the media about the state of the team and how they need to do a better job finishing games:

The same message as Wittman. Learning how to execute down the stretch.

Because there is more emphasis on this topic, the difficult part will now be making sure guys don't tighten up at the end of games. Sometimes certain guys will either try and play the hero role or will tighten up when the pressure builds. There needs to be a balance between playing with a sense of urgency and trying to do too much, which will be what the Wizards need to find in order to win games down the stretch.

"I think we're pressuring ourselves too much, we're trying to win win win, instead of just relaxing and letting the game flow like we've been playing all game. I think when it's pressure time we think we cant make mistakes, but you can make mistakes, you just have to make sure you're staying aggressive and playing the right way. I think sometimes we get tight and that's when the mistakes really get noticeable and we get down on ourselves and a bunch of things happen. As long as we stay focused, calm and poised we'll be fine," said Beal.

Trevor Ariza also spoke to the media to give an update on his strained hamstring and to talk about trying to be a veteran presence during this tough stretch:

Although his hamstring is improving, Ariza indicated that he would likely not play in Tuesday's #WizWolves game. Al Harrington was at the doctor's office during practice so there is no update on his knee, but he remains questionable for Tuesday night's game.

The Wizards will get their chance to put these words from today into action Tuesday night when they host the T'Wolves at Verizon Center (7pm). This will really test the team's defense, as Minnesota enters the game third in the NBA in scoring, led by early MVP candidate Kevin Love.

Stay tuned for more on the #WizWolves matchup in Tuesday's Gameday Blog.