The Wizards (4-23) are enduring their poorest start in franchise history to sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference while the Thunder (3-27) own the league’s worst mark in their first season in Oklahoma City.
Washington’s latest loss - 93-89 at Cleveland on Thursday - may have been its most frustrating. The Wizards conceded the game’s final 11 points, eight on free throws, and failed to score over the last 1:33.
“It’s tough because we had a chance to win,” Washington guard Mike James said. “We’re up six and the calls didn’t go our way, man. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
This game likely represents the Wizards’ best chance to end their skid. After this, their next five games are against Houston, New Orleans, Boston, Cleveland and Orlando.
Interim coach Ed Tapscott tried to take solace from the solid effort by Washington on Thursday.
“Hey, this could be an opportunity to see what it is we can do,” he said. “I’m going to say, look at the standard we set for ourselves against a team that’s got this type of record. There’s no excuse for any less standard against anybody else, and that is what I am going to hammer every day from now on.”
The Wizards, though, will next be facing an opponent with extra incentive. Oklahoma City’s two leading scorers - Kevin Durant and Jeff Green - are Washington-area natives who likely have something to prove after flopping in last season’s lone visit to the Verizon Center as rookies with Seattle.
Durant and Green combined to shoot 32.3 percent (11-of-34) for a total of 27 points in a 108-86 loss on Jan. 6. Durant denied after the game that he was pressing in his hometown.
Washington has won four straight against the Oklahoma City franchise, with Caron Butler averaging 27.0 points in last season’s two wins.
Butler is the Wizards’ leading scorer at 21.0 points per game, but he had one of his worst efforts on Thursday. He scored six points - one more than his season low - on 3-of-13 shooting.
James picked up the slack with 26 points, his highest total since being acquired by Washington on Dec. 10. The Wizards’ losing streak, however, started when James joined the team.
The Thunder lost their seventh straight road game, 90-88 at Detroit on Friday. Durant had 26 points and eight rebounds for Oklahoma City, which fell to 1-13 against Eastern Conference opponents.
“We’re a young team that is still learning how to finish games, and they are a great team that knows how to do that,” Thunder forward Chris Wilcox said.
Green had a difficult night after double-doubles in his previous two games. The forward made four of 14 shots for 11 points and six rebounds.