It’s Christmas week in DC and Washington is hoping their fortunes to close the year are brighter than anything has shown so far this season. The Wizards finished off a 1-2 three game week with an impressive home win over the Hornets on Saturday. Before XMAS the Wiz will face the Kings and Grizzlies at home, and will later head to Brooklyn for a Saturday matinée matchup with the Nets. Saturday will be a big day for DC sports fans as the Wiz continue the reach to .500 and the NFC East leading Washington Redskins can clinch the division and a playoff spot with a win in Philadelphia in a Saturday night primetime matchup against the Eagles. The rematch with Memphis will be a tough test, but with the improved effort and defense it’s reasonable to hope that the Wizards will be 14-14 heading into next week.
As has been the case for close to 15 games straight games now, injuries will be key to the team’s upcoming success. List of players out of the lineup for Monday’s game, and most likely the entire week:
- Bradley Beal
- Otto Porter
- Alan Anderson
- Drew Gooden
The top four are expected to be big contributors this season, and Gooden was an important piece at the end of last season with Nene hurt. The Wizards are really staying afloat this month because of the amazing play of John Wall. As one writer said, John Wall is SO COOL.
The Kings come to town on Monday in a matchup of great friends and former University of Kentucky teammates John Wall and Demarcus Cousins. In his five previous years in the league, Cousins has established himself as having one of the shortest tempers in the league. He’s batted heads with 5+ coaches and has finished top 3 in technicals every year except his rookie year, when he finished fifth. Unfortunately for Cousins he missed 23 games last year, or else he probably would have finished 1st in most technicals for the third straight year.
This year adding the volatile Rajon Rondo to the team immediately foreshadowed multiple blowups this season, but no one could foresee what happened in early December in Mexico City. As everyone’s probably heard by now Rondo was suspended one game for verbally abusing veteran referee Bill Kennedy, reportedly yelling, “You’re a f*****g f****t at Kennedy. Rondo was ejected and Kennedy would later reveal that he is gay. Berating officials is nothing new in the NBA, but this situation was an embarrassing blemish in a league that has come so far in terms of player image.
On a lighter note, as the Kings can also commonly be the KryBabies, below we’ll highlight some all-time great tantrums and meltdowns by athletes.
This Week’s Matchups
Monday vs. Kings (11-16)
Something’s got to give in Monday’s game. To the casual fan, seeing that the Wizards haven’t won consecutive games since November 21st probably is hard to believe, but If you’ve been watching the team recently this is not a surprise at all. The Wizards followed up a three game win streak on November 21 by losing 10 of its last 15 games coming into Monday. What’s also disconcerting is the worse home record than road record so far this year. The Wiz will look to continue the positive trends that were established on Saturday as the league’s top center comes to town.
Through 27 games Cousins leads eligible players in usage percentage at 34.5%. This statistic measures the percentage of a team’s possessions that a player uses while on the court, ie. end in a shot attempt or turnover. Going into Monday’s game, the Wiz will surely key in on rebounding and defending Cousins. Through his career he has thrived on second chance points, especially on his own misses. So far this season he’s averaging 2.4 offensive rebounds per game, the lowest of his career, but against a depleted wizards roster, he could surely return 5+ offensive rebounds, or open rebounding lanes for his teammates.
Speaking of the Wizard’s depleted roster, Washington is dressing 9 players for Monday’s game with shooting guard Gary Neal being a late scratch. 9!! And this number includes Ryan Hollins who hasn’t played in the last four games, all coach’s decisions. The Wizard’s starting lineup will be Wall, Temple, Oubre, Dudley, and Gortat. The key to the game may very well be Gortat’s ability to stay out of foul trouble. If the Wizards have to rely on Dejuan Blair to play 10+ minutes, this will be a huge disadvantage with or without Cousins on the floor. For John Wall, he averaged 20 pts, 10 assists, and 62.5% shooting from 3 in the 2 meetings last year. He usually enjoys playing against one of his best friends in Cousins, especially at home.
Last note: Oubre will be starting his second straight game with Otto Porter still recovering from injuries. Besides constantly being in foul trouble recently, he has been great for the Wiz, including 2-2 from 3 on Saturday against Charlotte, and a career high 18 points last Wednesday in San Antonio. Without Gary Neal Oubre will need to step up as Ramon Sessions will be the only other guard/wing player available. Here’s to a good team win and improved health!
Wednesday vs. Grizzlies (15-14)
Rematch Time! The Wizards get a chance at redemption nine days after being demolished in Memphis. In that game the Wizards only led once the entire game, at 15-14. For the game Memphis shot 56.4% and made 10 three pointers on 15 attempts. The Wizards actually won the turnover battle by three (14) and only lost the rebounding battle by three, both rather impressive considering the statistics so far this season. Disappointing however was the play of the starting lineup. Wall was 2-11 for six points, with both makes coming from 3. In fact more concerning was that 7 of his 11 ATTEMPTS were from 3. His shot-chart tells the story, with only one attempt at the rim.
For a player nicked up with multiple ailments it can be hard to continue being as aggressive as possible, wanting instead to minimize contact, but Washington needs Wall to better distribute his shot attempts across the floor. This was one game, and he’ll be fine, but we’ll have to keep an eye on this in case it becomes a habit.Meanwhile Porter was 1-8 and Gortat 4-11. The team was really saved by Gary Neal pouring in 24 points off the bench on 14 shots.
Memphis will go with the same small lineup as game 1, bringing Zach Randolph off the bench. They’re only 2-3 in the five games with this lineup, the jury’s still out, and coach Dave Joerger is still on the hot seat. There’s been rumors about trading anyone not named Marc Gasol, and even while they sit in 6th place in the West, things aren’t looking great for the Grizzlies season.
Gary Neal’s health will be in question for Wednesday’s game, so the Wiz will likely be 8-9 men deep again against a physical Memphis team. The same keys will apply Monday’s game against Sac-Town, and if the Wizards can stay within 5FG% of the Grizzlies, while keeping turnovers low, they should be able to sneak out a victory heading into the holiday.
Saturday @ Nets (7-20)
The Wizards finish the week in Brooklyn for a day after Christmas match against the Nets. Brooklyn so far has the third worst record in the league and has no signs of improving from that perch anytime soon. If anything, Brooklyn’s management is only looking to improve the team because division rival Boston has the Nets’ 1st rd pick this year in the Ben Simmons lottery.
Hopefully, the Wizards don’t have a holiday hangover as despite their lowly record they’ve enjoyed 2 wins against Houston, wins against Atlanta, Detroit and Boston, and an overtime loss at Golden State, in a game they definitely should have won. The Nets are currently third worst in offense, 10th worst in defense and 5th worst in true shooting percentage. This will be a 1 game road trip for Washington before heading home to play the Clippers on Monday. Saturday is a game the Wizards need to win to continue the trek towards playoff positioning. Sitting in 12th place, this is a great chance for the team to move up as they face a bottom feeding Nets team and the Raptors twice before Jan 10.
Saturday also gives the DC sports teams a chance to do something that has happened in the last 21 tries, since December 17, 1983 – have the Wiz, Caps, and Skins all win on the same day.
All I want for Christmas is a healthy team smh.