Nene, New-Look Washington Wizards Lose 95-92 to Atlanta Hawks: First-Person Perspective

The Nene-led, new-look Washington Wizards did what the old squad had become especially good at of late and blew a 16-point lead as they fell to the Atlanta Hawks, 95-92.

It was the second such occurrence in as many games after a Thursday night loss to the Indiana Pacers saw the Wizards give up a 22-point lead only to lose once again. But what happened beyond the box score? The two most glaring issues with this team are not so much talent-related, but lie in the areas of leadership and late-game execution - specifically shot selection.

John Wall has been unfairly tasked with leading this team from the onset, something that he is clearly not ready to do. The acquisition of a veteran leader like Nene will certainly help ease his burden, but it is obvious that there are still major holes that exist on the team when it comes to having a clear identity.

Wall shot a dismal 1-for-10 from the field on Saturday, but Wizards head coach Randy Wittman told those of us at the press conference, "I couldn't have asked much more of our guys tonight at both ends of the floor."

If effort isn't a concern for this team, then what is?

Sometimes, the opposing team is simply better, and Wittman inferred as much with those comments. But on nights like this one, the better team shouldn't have one given the large lead. How did the Wizards blow it?

The shot selection was abysmal late in the game, with Wall and Crawford taking several ill-advised shots from the perimeter in the fourth quarter, often with the shot clock still in double digits. Youth, inexperience, and lack of discipline are the culprits when that happens. Unfortunately for Wizards fans, their favorite team isn't lacking in that department.

"The ball's got to get inside more than it does. Especially when it gets down to crunch time. We're never going to get to the free throw line playing out on the perimeter on the three point line like that," Wittman said. "We don't get anything thrusted to the basket."

He hit the nail on the head here. Unless the team can begin to score from inside late in games, they will have difficulty maintaining leads or coming back late. Experienced teams and players understand the need to get easy baskets and to avoid taking tough shots early in the shot clock.

The lone bright spot for the Wizards was the inspired play of Nene, who finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds on 9-of-13 shooting. His hustle plays and work in the paint early on sparked the rest of the team and opened up the floor for his teammates to knock down open shots.

A loss is still a loss, however, and until either the coaches or a leader within the team steps up and demands that better decisions be made late, the remainder of the season will be a long one for the Wizards.

The road doesn't get any easier as they travel to face the Boston Celtics Sunday night and then square off against the Detroit Pistons on Monday, March 26.

Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and regularly frequents the D.C. metropolitan area, following all local sports, especially the Washington Wizards.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets


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Updated Sunday, Mar 25, 2012