It’s been a longggggggg 10 weeks for Wizards players and fans to start the 2015 NBA season. Coming into the season the East seemed wide open behind Cleveland (it still is), and the Wizards were looking to improve for the third straight year. Instead looking at the standings on Monday 1/4, it’s mind-boggling that the Wizards have the same amount of losses (17) as Golden State, San Antonio, and Cleveland combined, though contributing to two of those 17 losses. Obviously the continuous injuries have really hurt the team, but the magnitude really hasn’t gotten enough press.
It’s easy to make excuses but every team deals with varying levels of injuries and it’s part of the game. Especially frustrating though has been seeing the team continually 2-4 games out of 8th place in the conference. For every two or three game win streak to get back to .500+, it’s seemingly always followed by a two, three, or four game losing streak. Between the injuries and difficult January schedule, it seems Washington will have to make its playoff run after the All-Star break, similar to Boston last year, able to sneak into the 7th seed. 11 of the 16 games in January will be at the Verizon Center, but seven of the 11 will be against teams above .500 and currently in the top 8 of their respective conference.
Speaking of All-Star Break, the All Star game this year is in Toronto this year, against the Raptors who visit Washington on Friday. The All-Star game is 39 days away and All-Star voting ends in just over two weeks. So, while taking a break from voting for John Wall as an All-Star starter, or tweeting for John Wall as an All-Star starter, let’s look at some great recent campaign videos.
NBA All-Star Game Campaign Promos
Where’s the John Wall one though?
This Week’s Matchups
Wednesday vs. Cavs (23-9)
Wednesday marks the return of the King. LeCryBaby, LeBum, Le CrabDribble, whatever his name, he and the Cavs are currently the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference, as expected. This is the second straight year the Wiz won by at least 12 in the first matchup of the season against the Cavs. Last year the Wiz lost the next two meetings decidedly before losing in overtime in the last game of the regular season in a game John Wall, Bradley Beal, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving didn’t play. Wednesday’s meeting will be vastly different from the first meeting unfortunately as the Wiz will be without Beal, and the Cavs have starting point guard Irving back in the lineup.
So far this season, Irving has played in six games, averaging 15 PPG, 4.1 assists, and 2.3 rebounds, shooting 39.7% on FGs and 24% on three pointers. In the six games Cleveland is 5-1, with the only loss coming at Golden State on Christmas. Irving’s still not playing back-to-backs, but he had season highs in points, rebounds, assists, and FG% in Monday’s win against Toronto, posting 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists, on 62.5% shooting.
Looking back at game 1, John Wall put up his best statistical game of the season, with 35 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, and 5 steals, while shooting 14-24 from the field.
The team did a great job defensively, forcing the Cavs into 33.7 FG% and 18 turnovers. Of those 18 turnovers, King James had 9, halting the offense tremendously. Forcing 18 turnovers was great and surely a significant cause of the Wizards’ win, but Washington only had 7 steals for the game. Of the other 11, many were unforced uncharacteristic turnovers from Cleveland.
Look for the Cavs to come out fast hoping to return the favor by crushing the Wiz on their home court. Cleveland comes to the Phone Booth with a healthy roster, minus 13th man Joe Harris, and it looks like the Wizards are getting a little healthier in time for a visit from the conference leading Cavs. Beal and Anderson are still out, but it seems that at least one from the trio of Neal, Gooden, and Nene will be available.
Friday vs. Raptors (21-15)
Friday night marks the 3rd of 4 meetings with Toronto. The Raptors will be without starting small forward DeMarre Carroll who today had arthroscopic knee surgery. Carroll has already missed 13 games this season and the Raptors are 7-6 in those games. Statistically Toronto ranks 6th in OffRtg and 9th in NetRtg, but 4th worst in pace and third worst in percentage of FGs made that come off of assists. Much of this comes from the one on one play of guards Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, but they have produced greatly almost halfway through the season. In the previous 2 meetings DeRozan is averaging 27 points on 22 shots and 9.5 field goals. He’s only shot 38.5% but Washington needs to do a better job limiting DeRozan’s possessions. His offensive possessions routinely lead to points in the paint, offensive rebounds, backdoor cuts, and difficult shots made. With Carroll out of the lineup, the Wizards can put more pressure on DeRozan, and maybe take comfort in the defensive drop off that starting three-point specialist Terrence Ross will bring.
Washington and Toronto played last Wednesday in Canada and Toronto came out with a three point win thanks in large part to Derozan’s 34 points. Washington did a great job affecting his shot, holding him to 9-24 FG%, but DeRozan used his craftiness to get to the free throw line 15 times, making all 15. Washington, minus rookie Kelly Oubre at times, has been one of the better teams in the league in number of personal fouls committed, but on Dec. 30 they committed 27 fouls, 8 more than the team’s current season average, including Garrett Temple fouling out for the second time in his career, and head coach Randy Wittman calling some of the calls “ridiculous”. It’s tough to say what exactly should be done differently this go around. DeRozan is certainly one of the quickest and craftiest guards in the league and as an NBA veteran, knows how to influence the refs whistles.
Washington hasn’t beat Toronto in the regular season since February 27, 2014, and a win here would go a long way to lifting the teams confidence and conference standings. As John Wall showed during his Player of the Month winning December, the Wizards always have a chance when John Wall plays like the WALLSTAR. Here’s to more of that, it’s officially John Wall Season.
Saturday @ Orlando (19-16)
For some reason I think this picture encapsulates the Wizards season to a T. Probably something to do with the team seemingly going in to some games blind. Not guarding the three-point line against Paul George and CJ Miles. Letting Russell Westbrook run up and down the Phone Booth floors. Anyway the frustration right now is more because the team can’t play Orlando all 82 games. The Wizards have won 11 straight meetings and three so far this season. It’s interesting that the teams have play four times in the first 40 games and that Washington is responsible for 1/5th of Orlando’s losses. Orlando is tied for eighth place in the East coming into Wednesday, but they face a tough upcoming stretch. Without starting point guard Elfrid Payton, Orlando was throttled Saturday in Cleveland and Monday in Detroit. Payton is out Wednesday at Indiana, and the Magic are unsure if he’ll be available against Washington with what they are calling a bone bruise to his ankle.
Like the Toronto game, this matchup features two teams that faced off the previous week. On New Years’ day Washington put together a complete team effort on the way to a 103-91 victory. The game was actually tied going into the fourth quarter, when Kris Humphries got hot scoring all 11 of his points. Wall ended the game with 24 points and 13 assists, Porter had 20 and 11 rebounds, and Washington committed only nine turnovers. Interestingly, one game after Wittman called the fouls called in Toronto ridiculous, the Magic and Wizards combined for 18 free throws during the game. Maybe the refs were listening? It also featured countless spectacular plays from the point guard.
Dematha grad Victor Oladipo has never beat the Wizards, and the Wizards should be plenty confident heading into Saturday as they look to sweep Orlando for the third consecutive season.
*All records as of Wednesday, January 6th
Bonus Coverage (x3)
December Highlights for the Eastern Conference Player of the Month
Public Service Announcement
Wiz Of Awes Mailbag