Lucky week 7 begins a pretty brutal stretch of games for the Wizards, who suddenly find themselves with only Ryan Hollins and Dejuan Blair as available traditional big men. Starting center Marcin Gortat is in Poland tending to his sick mother, Nene has been out for a week with a sore calf, Drew Gooden has been dealing with back spasms for two or three weeks, and Kris Humphries has a sprained left ankle. The lack of frontcourt depth is concerning, even for a team that wants to play smaller this year, and on Sunday the duo of Hollins and Blair managed to only play a combined 17 minutes. This left Otto Porter and Jared Dudley to man the center position, and Porter ended the game leading the team with 11 of the teams 31 rebounds.
Week six was actually one of the more successful weeks of the season with the team going 2-2 with wins in Cleveland and home against the Suns. Unfortunately, the loss to the Lakers on Wednesday shadowed an otherwise relatively successful week. Wednesday’s game saw Verizon Center turn into a road venue as Kobe Bryant dropped 31 points in his last game in DC. Sunday’s game against Dallas was marred by a 38 point game by Wesley Matthews who poured in 10 three pointers.
The rash of injuries comes at a tough time for Washington as they face Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, and Dirk Nowitzki this week. Humphries was a game-time decision in Sunday’s matchup with Dallas and is hopeful to play Monday against the Heat. Even with the team’s top big men out the biggest question mark is undoubtedly the health of John Wall. With less than two minutes to go against the Mavericks Wall banged knees with Jeremy Evans and needed to be carried to the locker room by teammates. Tests came back negative and showed no structural damage, but he remains questionable for Monday’s contest against the Heat. In addition to the tough upcoming stretch, this is bad timing for Wall and the Wizards as he had his best week of the season, including back to back 30+ point-10+ assist games.
With or without Wall the Wizards will probably be forced to stick to their tiny lineup for a few more games. Tiny ball worked on Friday against the Suns, was a little less effective Sunday against the Mavericks, and tiny things can be good or bad as evidenced below.
Earl Boykins = Good
Shrinkage = Bad
Tiny Rats Who Can Make Bomb Ratatouille and Escape Maniac Chefs = Good
Little Jerry Seinfeld’s Cockfighting Abilities = Bad
Darren Sproles = Good
Tiny Cars, Big Men = Bad
Frank Reynolds = Good
Tiny Beds, Big Dogs = Bad
This Week’s Matchups
Monday @ Heat (12-6)
Weird fact: After playing their first Sunday game of the season yesterday against Dallas, the Wizards travel to Miami to play their first Monday game of the season. The health of John Wall will remain the biggest question mark as we approach gametime. Regardless of the injuries, look for Bradley Beal to continue forcing his way on offense against Dwayne Wade, Gerald Green and Tyler Johnson. After extended struggles post injury, Beal has responded in his last two games making 9 of his last 14 three-pointers on his way to 55 points combined.
For the Heat they’ll be without the services of starting small forward Luol Deng and backup big Amare Stoudemire. As many analysts expected, the Heat have started strong and find themselves in 1st place in the Eastern Conference and a 10-3 record at home. Statistically, the Heat have the second best defense in the league, with a defensive rating of 95. Their pace on offense could benefit to increase some, but they find themselves in good company right now among the NBA’s best.
Anchoring Miami’s defense is center Hassan Whiteside who has followed up a successful first year with the Heat, with a defensive player of the year caliber effort to start the season. 18 games into the season he is averaging a mind-numbing 4.6 blocks per game. This rate shouldn’t hold up over 82 games, but he could be the first player since 1995 to average at least 4 blocks per game. A little over one month through the season, Whiteside also has more blocks than six NBA teams, including 16 more than our home town Wiz.
Facing the frontcourt of Bosh and Whiteside will be tough without much roster depth as both defend the rim well and will control the rebounding department. If we do play tinyball, our power forward and centers will need to be effective shooting the three ball to get the Miami bigs away from the basket, freeing up room for guards to drive and finish.
Wednesday vs. Rockets (10-11)
After finishing last season 56-26 and losing in the Western Conference Championships to the Warriors, expectations were very high for this year’s Houston Rockets team. Similar to the Wizards, Houston has sputtered a quarter through the season and are still looking to become an over .500 team. Houston brings back all the key pieces from last year’s roster, but also added local product Ty Lawson who averaged 15 points and 9.6 assists a year ago with Denver. Houston has really struggled thus far to work Lawson into the offense effectively and he’s gone from starting and averaging 33 minutes per game in the 1st 10 games, to coming off the bench and averaging 15 minutes the last 10 games . This change has been effective for Houston, which has won 5 of its last 6 games.
The key matchup will be behind the 3 point as the Rockets are second in the league in three-point attempts (30.8) and Washington is last in the league in three-point percentage allowed (39.8%). After allowing Dallas to hit 16 3’s on Sunday, Wittman will surely preach to the team to close out better on three’s but he preached the same after the Pacers blitzed the Wiz for 19 3’s the week before.
On offense, it will be interesting to see how the Rockets matchup. James Harden has had his well documented issues on defense and it seems he’s reverted back to this level after a decent defensive season last year.
Harden may start on Beal to avoid cross matching on the other end, but as the game goes on it’s possible Houston may elect to switch former Wizard Trevor Ariza onto Beal. John Wall will have a tough matchup against the feisty Patrick Beverley, who is allowing opponents to shoot only 39.4% from the field. In two matchups last year Wall averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds to go along with 4 steals. This will certainly be a fast game and Washington will have to make sure to crash the boards as the guards leak out.
Friday @ New Orleans (5-15)
Don’t let their record fool you. The finally healthy Pelicans have notched impressive wins over the Spurs and Cavaliers this season, and welcomed point guard Tyreke Evans back from injury last week. With the main cast of characters finally healthy, the hope around New Orleans is that the team will finally be able to return to the level of play that helped them clinch the 8th seed in last year’s Western Conference playoff push. So far the team is 30th in points per game and 26th in rebounds, a disappointing beginning for a team led by defensive player of the year candidate Anthony Davis. Although sporting a 5-15 record the team is a respectable 4-5 at the Smoothie King Center where yours truly will be Friday night.
With Evans back in the lineup expect to see a lot of 1-4 pick-and-rolls with him and Davis bringing difficult matchups for the defense all night. On defense Davis has been his normal productive self, averaging 2.6 blocks, 1.4 steals, and holding players to 5.6% less field goal percentage per game when he is guarding them. He’s been making highlight plays early on as well.
Washington won both meetings last year by a combined 10 points and will have to bring the energy in this game as both teams are desperate for wins right now. Beal and Wall actually struggled mightily last year against New Orleans, with Beal averaging 9 points, Wall averaging 13 points, and both shooting 38% on field goals. Things haven’t come too easy for opponents this season in The Big Easy, and Friday night should be another tough but exciting game at the Smoothie King Center.
Saturday @ Dallas (12-9)
The week ends with a rematch against the Mavericks, this time in Dallas. Six days after losing to them in DC, Washington looks to avenge the loss with more of the supporting cast available. The Wizards were actually winning at halftime on Sunday, but were out scored by six in the third quarter and nine in the fourth. Washington really needs to focus on rebounding this game as they allowed all five Mavericks to grab 6+ rebounds, while Porter was the only Wizard starter to grab more than 5 rebounds.
21 games in the Mavs are surprising the critics sitting in 5th place in the West. They’re not particularly spectacular in any part of the game but rank in the top half of the league in PPG, RPG, field goal percentage and assists. Hopefully the Wiz have their full roster available for the game as they will need some inside presence to create easy baskets and keep Dallas working on defense.
Hopefully we can see more of Javale than we did on Sunday.
Looking like a two win week against Dallas. Cue it up.