The Answer To Wizards Road Woes Might Be In Visitors' Locker At Verizon Center

As the Wizards head back on the road, they could stand to learn a few things from the teams that beat them at the Verizon Center during their latest homestand.

Gregg Popovich wouldn't bite when asked to offer a cure for the Wizards, who remain winless on the road almost four months into the season.

"I never give advice to other teams," he said. "I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to think I could figure out their team when I’m still trying to figure out mine."

That's all well and good, but someone has to help Washington, right? On Sunday the Wizards drag their 0-25 record to Cleveland, hoping to end their road losing streak, which is now four shy of the NBA record set by the 1992-93 Mavericks.

Flip Saunders said Saturday that the Wizards don't adjust their game plan to account for the opponent because they have enough trouble worrying about themselves. But maybe Washington could look at the recent teams in the Verizon Center visitors' locker room for inspiration.

Al Horford offered his thoughts when the Hawks were in town last weekend. The fourth-year All-Star center has experience with road woes since Atlanta had a losing record on the road in each of his first three seasons. But the team also improved its road record each year, and this season the Hawks own a 16-11 mark away from Philips Arena.

"We were a part of that a few years ago, we weren’t winning at all on the road," he said. "Last year we did a better job, and this year we’re doing the best job we’ve done so far."

Horford said players are more comfortable and confident at home. This is especially true, he said, for young teams like the Wizards.

"Just us being more focused, I think that’s been the key," he said. "Coach (Larry Drew) always talks about controlling the tempo of the game and being smart about shot selection. That goes a long way -- especially on the road because you almost have to play near perfect."

It's tough to overlook the mental aspect. It comes up often while speaking to players about what makes road games so difficult.

Rashard Lewis. who won won 60 percent of his road games last season as a member of the Orlando Magic, seems to think that's an area in which the Wizards need to clamp down.

"We just gotta stop making mistakes," he said. "We’ve been making the same mistakes. We’ll be in games, and kind of lose it in the fourth quarter. Late in the fourth quarter, that’s when it’s time to stop turning the ball over, move the ball on the offensive end and execute on the offensive end and make sure we go down and try to stop them on the defensive end.

"It’s just the little things," he continued. "Boxing out, rebounding, giving up one shot, executing the play that’s drawn up and you gotta defend.

Then he echoed Horford: "In the fourth quarter you got to be perfect."

Lewis is right about the defense being a problem. And the statistics bear out a lack of effort and energy, too.

Again, no argument from the Wizards.

"Just locking in on the minor details," Al Thornton said. "That’s the only way we’re going to get a road win. That’s the only way we’re going to build some type of consistency. The details."

"Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not," he said. "Inconsistent."

Like when the Wizards push Oklahoma City to double overtime then get blown out in Memphis the next time out? Right.

Fixing effort has to be about action, not talk. And it can't just be some guys.

"It takes everybody getting together," Hawks forward Josh Smith said. "Putting our heads together, and realizing that it’s just us against the whole entire arena, and the (other) team."

On Saturday, the Wizards got an up close look at a group of professionals that put their heads together to take care of business on the road. The Spurs came into the Verizon Center for their fourth game in five nights, and stomped on Washington 118-94.

And even if Popovich was too modest to direct advice specifically to the Wizards, he offered some food for thought in while talking about his own team and what it takes to win on the road.

"As many competitive people as possible," he said. "In the NBA, some people are more competitive than others. I think the more competitive people you can put together, the more every game is important in the end, whether it's road, home, back-to-back or whatever it might be."

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