Wizards skid into home game against Lakers

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards' record is far superior after 10 games compared with last season.

However, after a third consecutive baffling home loss, it sure doesn't feel that way. Hope for a quick fix comes Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that already upset Washington earlier this season.

The Wizards (5-5) opened their four-game homestand Tuesday with a 113-99 loss to a Dallas Mavericks team that entered 1-10 and was averaging only 97.9 points per game. Washington allowed 36 points in the first quarter, 64 by halftime and 90 points after three quarters.

Considering the Wizards surrendered 122 and 130 points in home losses last week to the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively, the latest setback cannot be viewed as one-off.

"I probably sound insane trying to tell you something different," Wizards guard Bradley Beal said, "but it's the same thing over and over. We've developed a bad habit of not coming out with energy.

"Overall, our defensive effort isn't there. We keep worrying about offense, and offense isn't a problem, it's our defense."

Washington started 2-8 in 2016-17 before recovering for a 49-win season. This season, the Wizards began 3-0 and appeared headed for a fourth consecutive win against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Oct. 26.

Yet despite opening the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead, the Wizards fell 102-99 in overtime as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sank a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left. That loss started Washington's current skid of five defeats in seven games.

The Lakers (5-6) will finish a back-to-back road set in Washington after falling 107-96 to the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday. Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson each scored 18 points for Los Angeles, and Julius Randle contributed 16 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. The Lakers played catch-up after falling behind 33-16 in the first quarter.

"They were ready for the fight and we weren't," Los Angeles coach Luke Walton said. "We felt like in the first quarter they punked us. They were bigger than us, they were stronger than us. ... I feel we engaged nicely in the fight from there on, we just didn't do smart things."

Lakers rookie guard Lonzo Ball had nine points on 4-of-15 shooting but added six assists and four blocks. Los Angeles fell below .500 after winning two in a row.

Washington guard John Wall had 23 points and 14 assists against Dallas after sitting out one game with a shoulder injury. He hit 13 of 18 free throws.

In the first meeting against Ball and the Lakers, Wall had 19 points but was 7 of 22 from the field and only attempted four free throws.

"The main thing we said with Wall is we just wanted to keep him off the foul line, which we did a great job of," Walton said after last month's home win.

"He is so hard to keep off the foul line and from scoring at the front of the rim on you. We had four guys guarding him, and then we started switching everything, so then whoever was in the game was guarding him."

Ball said, "We were just playing together down the stretch."

Ball, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, is averaging 8.8 points and 6.9 assists but shooting a dismal 29.9 percent from the field.

Offense certainly hasn't been an issue for Beal, who is averaging 34.3 points in his past four games. However, the wing threat missed five of six shots in the fourth quarter Tuesday as the Wizards couldn't finish off a rally that had them move from down 16 to within 90-88 with 9:09 remaining.

Dallas pulled away with a 15-5 run.

"We keep talking about being a defensive team, but now it's action," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We've got to be an action-defending team, and right now we're not doing that.

"In order to win in this league consistently or to give yourself a best chance, you got to do it. I got to figure out a better way to get guys on the floor to be active on the defensive end and not worry about their shots."
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