WASHINGTON -- The Wizards entered Sunday's matchup with the Boston Celtics with their eyes set on securing a postseason seeding tiebreaker, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. admitted as much before tip-off. Instead, they were sent home with their worst loss of the season so far, a 29-point demolition that featured Celtics star Jayson Tatum going off for 51 points.
It was ugly, plain and simple. The Wizards let the Celtics go on a 14-0 run to end the first half and make 19 threes in the game, the most Washington has allowed all year.
The Wizards fell to 23-24, one game under .500, and have lost four of their last five.
"It was embarrassing, honestly. That's probably the one and only word I have for it," Bradley Beal said of Sunday's loss.
The Wizards had hopes of hitting their stride right about now. They recently welcomed back a host of players who had been missing for various reasons and on Sunday got Unseld Jr. back from health and safety protocols.
So far, they haven't been able to put it all together. Their defense has fallen way short of expectations, ranking 22nd in the NBA in efficiency. And their offense hasn't been much better, at 21st.
The Wizards are 23rd in net rating and are now tied for the 17th-best record in the NBA. They have played below average by all of those measures and that trend has continued despite the fact they are now whole.
Unseld Jr. took much longer than usual to exit the locker room and sit down for his postgame press conference on Sunday. He said he addressed the team and was convening with coaches.
As for the message he delivered, Unseld Jr. said it was about moving forward rather than looking back.
"Obviously, the result wasn't what we desired, but nobody's feeling sorry for us. So, whether we want to pout or feel bad and mope, or we can respond and change it ourselves. That's kind of my mindset, that was the messaging," he said.
"These types of games happen. Sadly, this one is tough because we're all kind of bunched in the same group as far as records. These games kind of multiply in effect. To stay ahead of teams and keep ourselves relevant, we have to come away with these types of games at home."
The Wizards getting all their players back has also complicated matters in a way. Unseld Jr. currently feels compelled to play 11 or 12 players every night and in a 48-minute game, there is only so much playing time to go around.
That has a domino effect as some nights guys who are used to playing do not play much or any at all. Those who do but only sparingly have trouble gaining a rhythm. And those who play heavy minutes have to deal with the supporting cast constantly changing around them.
It's not easy, as Beal explained.
"It's tough because you try to figure out the rhythm of the team, you try to figure out the rhythm of that player, if they have a rhythm. It's tough. I understand it from all sides. The business perspective, the coaches' perspective, the players' perspective. It's not an easy decision," Beal said.
Beal went on to explain what he meant by the "business" part of the equation. He referenced how center Thomas Bryant just got back from rehabbing a partially torn ACL and is in a contract year, saying the Wizards need to see what they have in him before the trade deadline and beyond. Bryant played 22 minutes, while their other two centers - Daniel Gafford and Montrezl Harrell - combined for only 18.
The Wizards are trying to bring a lot of players together to get on the same page. That may help explain why they lost the way they did on Sunday.