After a disappointing three-game skid, the Wizards have responded nicely with a three-game win streak against Orlando, Milwaukee, and Detroit to take the team to 6-4. In these three games the Wiz haven’t allowed over 100 points, something they had only done twice in the first seven games. In addition to the recent success it’s exciting to finally be playing consistent games. After back to back two game weeks, the Wizards head into a week 5 of the season looking at their first four games in five nights stretch of the season. The NBA focused this offseason on limiting the amount of 4-in-5s but couldn’t completely get rid of them. As a Wizards fan though you have to enjoy the chance to spend the Thanksgiving holiday watching as many Wizards basketball games as we had in the last two weeks. These four games will be against the teams ranked 6th to 9th in Net Rating, which measures the difference between points a team scores per 100 possessions, and points a team allows per 100 possessions.
Saturday’s game against Detroit saw the return of Bradley Beal to the lineup, but his presence didn’t do much for the team offensively. Clearly he was not the same aggressive player we saw early on this season, instead letting Wall and Porter control most of the possessions. In fact the much heralded backcourt struggled against the Pistons, combining for 15 points on 7-19 shooting. Earlier in the week Garrett Temple played savior, and Saturday was Nene’s turn, posting a line of 18 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 assists, while shooting 9-10 from the field. He had a few highlight plays as well:
Hopefully Nene and Gortat can continue the strong production at the center position in a pretty favorable week when it comes to that matchup. The Pacers will be primarily using Ian Mahimni and Jordan Hill, while the Hornets have a steady force in Al Jefferson. In the second half of the week the Celtics will use their deep but not especially effective rotation of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynynk, Amir Johnson, and Tyler Zeller (with spot minutes for David Lee), and lastly the Wizards will face a Raptors team missing Jonas Valanciunas, and instead sporting the frontline of Luis Scola, Bismack Biyombo, and Patrick Patterson.
As this is the first matchup of the season against the Toronto Drakes, and he thinks he can ball (he cannot), below you’ll find current ballers who think they can rap. Comment with any other noteworthy songs, the best/worst tracks, and check out Iman Shumpert’s tribute to Drake in the Bonus Coverage at the bottom of the article.
Ballers Who Be Rappin
Tony Parker – Premier Love
Kevin Durant – Worried About Tomorrow
Lance Stephenson – Hot Ni**a
Kobe Bryant – K.O.B.E
Iman Shumpert ft. XVRHLDY – Anarchy
Damian Lillard Freestyle
Ron Artest – Champions
Shaquille O’Neal – What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)
I was going to stick to current players, but have to give props to the most famous NBA rapper Shaquille O’Neal for makin bangers way back in the early 90’s.
This Week’s Matchups
Tuesday vs. Pacers (8-5)
The week starts with the Wizards hosting the new small-ball Indiana Pacers. After a down year caused by the broken leg suffered by All-Star Paul George, team president Larry Bird decided to revamp the roster and mimic many of the qualities that made the Warriors successful last season by turning to a lineup with 6’8″ small forward George sliding to the power forward position. George, or PG13 as he likes to be called now, was initially hesitant to this change, telling Sam Amick of USA Today, “It’s something new. We’ll see how it goes. As the season goes, it might be better for me to just be at my regular position. But I told them I was open to the situation and (we’ll) see where it goes.”
It’s worked out well so far for the team, as the Pacers have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games. Coach Frank Vogel has actually moved George to the small forward position for a few unfavorable matchups, including games against Memphis and Boston. I’d imagine the Pacers will roll with the most-used lineup of George Hill, Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, Paul George, and Ian Mahimni in this matchup as they most likely aren’t worried about Kris Humphries wreaking havoc in the paint. In this case look for the Wizards to cross match on defense putting Otto Porter on George and Humphries on CJ Miles. Miles has shown he can be a consistent three-point shooter which unfortunately will drag Hump further away from the hoop. We may see a lot of Jared Dudley at power forward this game, and Wittman shouldn’t hesitate to make the switch if the defense is not effective in the first 3-5 minutes. Matchups like this worry me some because we have a tendency to let players get hot when they play us, and George Hill and Monta Ellis have already shown this ability in previous seasons. Hopefully Bradley Beal and John Wall can stay focused and alert on defense, because small lapses can lead to both open three pointers, and drives to the rim.
While this is a different Pacers team, John Wall did average 24.8 points against them in 4 meetings last year, his highest against any team in the league. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Beal averaged 11 points on a putrid 31% shooting against Indiana last year, albeit in only two meetings. The backcourt will need to show up and help set the tempo against this Pacers team which even with their new pace-and space offense, is 3rd in defensive rating. The Pacers rank 6th in net rating (OffRtg-DefRtg), and the five teams ahead of them are all serious title contenders. Anytime there are two opposing top-10 players on the same court it should be a fun and exciting game, and this matchup looks to be no different.
Wednesday @ Hornets (8-6)
The first of four meetings against division foe Charlotte will be on the second day of a back to back against a Hornets team that is coming off of an exciting 127-122 OT win against the Sacramento Kings. Point guard Kemba Walker exploded for 39 points in this game, including 21 points in the fourth quarter, and this go-ahead lay-up with 0.7 seconds left in the fourth.
Charlotte ended up allowing an alley-oop to Rudy Gay at the end of regulation, but were able to take care of business in overtime. This Charlotte team made a few changes this offseason, and have gotten off to one of the best starts since this iteration of the franchise returned to Charlotte in 2004. Key additions include veteran small forward Nicolas Batum, guard Jeremy Lin, guard Jeremy Lamb, and rookie big man Frank Kaminsky. Losses include backup center Bismack Biyombo to Toronto, and 2012 number two overall pick and starting small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a torn labrum. MKG is out for the season after signing a 4yr/$52 million dollar contract this summer.
Last season Washington split the season series 2-2, losing two early February matchups, but responding with a blowout win and a double overtime win against the Hornets in March. Last year, Kemba Walker only played in the double overtime game, but the most consistent force on the team, center Al Jefferson, played all four games averaging 17.8 points and 9.3 rebounds. Like seemingly every team nowadays, the Hornets play a four in, one out offense, with stretch power forward Marvin Williams filling that role. Humphries should be quick enough to stay with Williams as his game has started to move towards more three point shooting and less drives into the paint. This season four of his eight attempts are coming from behind the three-point line, but his 40% percentage thus far will be something the Wizards will need to keep an eye on.
Batum’s length is one of the reasons he’s been a top wing defender the last few years, so expect to see him matched up on Bradley Beal throughout the game. Beal has done a great job thus far coming off of screens tight to keep his defender a few steps behind. He’ll need to make sure he continues this, as well as attacking the rim win he sees an opening as the Hornets do not have much rim protection up front outside of Jefferson and Williams who are both averaging 1.2 blocks per game. Williams has surprisingly doubled his previous career high for blocks and should be spending a lot of time on the perimeter guarding Humphries and Jared Dudley. Divisions are primarily seen as a joke in the NBA, but this is an important game for the Wizards, as they hope to finally establish themselves as the top dog in the Southeast.
Friday @ Celtics (7-6)
Black Friday sees the Wizards traveling to Boston for their second and last trip to Beantown. The Wizards saw how pesky the young Celtics are in tough fashion exactly three weeks before in a 20 point loss that wasn’t really even that close. The Celtics were up 40-25 after one quarter and held a 23 point lead heading into halftime. This was game one of two during the Wizards 30 hour stretch in which they turned the ball over 50 TIMES against the C’s and the Hawks. In fact Kris Humphries was the only player on the team to not have at least one turnover. Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk led the way defensively grabbing five and four steals respectively, as the team had 18 steals as a team. The game was really blown open at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second. John Wall amazingly had a +4 for the night, in a 20 point loss, but didn’t help things too much by shooting 6-17 to go along with 8 turnovers in 28 minutes.
As was the case in game one, the Celtics will be playing without sophomore guard Marcus Smart, who is now dealing with a knee issue that will sideline him for at least two weeks. Although the Wiz had a boatload of turnovers running the uptempo offense, don’t look for them to change their offensive formula. Wittman will surely preach turnovers and ball security this week, but pace and space is what the team does, and they’re not going to abandon that this early in the season, especially when we have seen positive results in most games. In a week featuring four games in five nights the bench will need to give Washington solid production on both sides of the ball. Look at the discrepancy in bench production below from the last go around. John Wall was the only starter to not shoot at least 50% from the field, meanwhile all seven bench players shot well below that same mark. In addition, rookie Kelly Oubre was second in points, and each bench player had at least one turnover:
Among the positives, however, the Wizards did a good job limiting Isaiah Thomas’ effectiveness as he had 16 points on 15 shots. The starting unit was hurt by starting stretch five Jared Sullinger who was 3-4 from three and backup stretch five Kelly Olynyk who was 3-5 from three. For the greatness of Gortat’s strength and rim running abilities he really can’t closeout from the paint to the three-point line and the Wizards will have to have a better defensive approach to stopping the three-point shooting big men. On offense, Bradley Beal was great for the Wiz shooting 9-15 for 24 points, going 3-4 from deep, and will continue to be an obvious focal point on offense. Hopefully John Wall can be more effective in his this trip to TD Garden as he didn’t hit a single shot that wasn’t at the rim in the last meeting.
The Celtics are not as good as we made them look on November 6th and the Wizards are not as bad as they made us look. Look for this game to better show the team we’ll see later in the year.
Saturday vs. Raptors (9-6)
The last game of the week pits the Raptors of Toronto against our Wizards in the first matchup between the franchises since the four game sweep from round one of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. The Raptors were extremely confident going into the playoff series as they had swept Washington in the three regular season matchups. Instead, the Wizards got their first 4-0 sweep in franchise history, dismantling the Raptors 125-94 in game 4.
The series also was a real coming out party for Bradley Beal, who averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, while showcasing his confidence against a backcourt that considered itself the best backcourt in the East.
Obviously the Wizards are a different team this year, without veteran Paul Pierce, but the core of Wall, Beal, Porter, and Gortat are back and each should make improvements this year. The Raptors shook up the roster as well, adding small forward Demarre Carroll, while bringing in Luis Scola to replace Amir Johnson. A key for the Raptors will be how to replace the production of center Jonas Valanciunas who will miss about six weeks with a fractured left hand. While replacement Bismack Biyombo can certainly get the job done protecting the rim, the drop-off on offense will be a tough task for Toronto to recover from. Looking at per 36 minute stats Jonas is currently averaging 16.8 points vs. Biyombo’s 9.1 points per 36. Bismack has shown he can be very useful on the offensive glass so look for him to aggressively crash the boards against Gortat, who thus far has left much to be desired when it comes to his defensive rebounding.
This is a different situation for Carroll, but it will be interesting to see how he performs against the Wizards. In the second round last year he was one of the most consistent players for Atlanta, going for 20 three times in the six game series. This year he’s shooting just under 40% from three-point range and similar to the Celtics game, the Wizards will need to be committed on defense as Toronto will routinely play lineups with four or five three-point shooters on the floor at one time.
Because of the hostility in both the season and playoff series last year this is beginning to seem like a potential new rivalry for the Wizards, and our backcourt has shown that they enjoy showing why they have supreme confidence in their abilities against this Raptors team. Expect to see Wall and Beal make some more highlight plays on Saturday night.
Drake’s reactions after Saturday’s beatdown
Iman Shumpert Hotline Bling Remix