After a surprise two game week, Washington looks to return to a sense of normalcy with another four game week. There are 10 games until the All-Star break and half will be against teams currently above .500. Unfortunately, the tough part comes first as five of the next six are against those above .500 teams, including a three games in five nights against Houston, OKC, and Golden State. Washington should be fresh coming into Monday’s game against Boston, with a full four days rest since its last game, Wednesday’s win over Miami. Snow days are a great source of rest and always gave me time to relax at home and remember the joys of life. For a professional basketball player the results may differ greatly. NBA players have specific routines they go through daily, especially during extended home stands, and this extended break hopefully won’t result in a lethargic early approach to Monday’s game. Some practices were cancelled, sessions delayed, but as Kelly Oubre played football shirtless in the snow, it looks like at least one player was able to keep up his routine this weekend.
Fortunately for the Wizards, they’ll be coming off four days rest as the Celtics travel to DC having played the 76ers the week before. There will still be delays and closures to public transportation and roads around the DC area on Monday, but Monumental Sports has already announced that the game will be played as scheduled.
The first two games of the week the Wizards will be looking to avoid sweeps as they are 0-6 combined against Boston and Toronto. The Raptors made some headlines this week with a funny and awkward interview for Demar DeRozan. Below is a SportsCenter top 10 video highlighting the top 10 awkward interviews in sports.
This Week’s Matchups
Monday vs. Celtics (24-21)
It’s been nine days since the Wizards last played the Celtics, and the wound is still fresh. Washington lost a heartbreaker by two points, as a John Wall layup at the horn rolled off the rim. Although the ending wasn’t in his favor, Wall had one of the best statistical games of his career, rolling off 36 points, 13 assists, 7 rebounds and 7 steals, becoming the first NBA player to record that line since steals were first recorded. He also shot 12-25 from the field, made 11 of 13 free throws, and had 6 turnovers in 44 minutes. Wall, playing the entire second half, looked fantastic 24 hours after the Wizards went into Indianapolis and beat the Pacers. As is the case with back-to-backs Beal didn’t play, meaning the Wiz were without two starters in him and Otto Porter, who will return from a hip injury for Monday’s game.
In the last meeting the score was extremely close, and the team stats were just as close too. Both teams shot 44% on FGs, attempted 36 free throws (32 makes for BOS, 31 for WAS), and the teams were separated by five in rebounds, three in turnovers, and two in assists, points in the paint, fouls and blocks.
Especially killer was the play of Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder. They combined for 54 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists, while Thomas connected on 15 of 16 free throws. Washington will look to run again and hopefully the addition of Bradley Beal can help the Zards avoid a sweep. Ultimately, as always, the outcome will likely come down to FG%, as Washington shoots 49% in wins and 42% in losses. In the three meetings thus far Washington has shot 39% and Boston is 2nd in the league in DefRtg, holding opponents to 98.9 points per 100 possessions.
TORONTO, CANADA – Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Tuesday @ Raptors (29-15)
Another night, another team that’s 3-0 against Washington. The last of four meetings on the year will be played in Toronto, where the second place Raptors are 15-6. Toronto has the longest win streak in the East (2nd longest in the league), coming in having won eight in a row, including a 9 point win in Washington on January 9th. In the 3 games Washington is averaging 87 points on 37% FG shooting and 32% from three. The 87 points is Washington’s lowest PPG average against any team this season. In 11 January games, the Raptors are 9-2, shooting 9% better from 3 (41%), making three more field goals per game, and scoring 6 more points than they did in December.
The Raptors’ breakout season has been a direct product of the play of their backcourt, averaging 44 points a game, and Washington will have to get the ball out of Lowry and DeRozan’s hands to limit the offense’s potential. DeRozan especially, has thrived, averaging 29.7 points in the three meetings thus far. Lowry and DeRozan both are shooting below their season averages in the series with Washington, but the number of shots and free throws has been extremely high, choosing quantity of shots over quality many times.
With the amazing play of the Warriors and Spurs out West, and the up and down play of Cleveland, Toronto has played somewhat under the radar, but they have a small chance at having head coach Dwayne Casey coach the All-Star game in Toronto this year. The East’s top team as of January 31 will coach the East All-Star team, and Dwayne Casey and the Raptors are definitely aware that they are only 2 games behind Cleveland. March Stein, power rankings expert noted Toronto’s play in his most recent rankings.
Thursday vs. Nuggets (17-27)
Thursday the Wizards get a chance to face a team they have yet to play this season. The Nuggets are a young team that’s surprisingly only 3.5 games out of the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. As a young team, the team has struggled greatly with inconsistency. They’ve beaten Golden State, Indiana, Houston (3x), and Toronto. Denver is 5-5 in its last 10 games, but has managed losing streaks of 8 and 6. The Nuggets are bottom five in FG% and DefRtg. In their favor has been the play of Danilo Gallinari and Will Barton, who are averaging 19.3 points and 15.4 points respectively.
While Gallo has been great in comparison to last year, improving his PPG by 7, he’s shooting the second lowest FG% of his career at 40.6. The difference for him has been getting to the FT line, as we’ve documented for Wall. Gallo is shooting almost 8 FTs a game, and hitting 87.5%. Even though Denver’s last three games have been against GSW, IND, and MIA, they will play 3 games in 4 nights against Atlanta, Boston, and Washington this week, so this will be a good opportunity for the Wiz to get win before the tough 3 game stretch that follows.
Last Note: Baltimore’s own Will Barton is a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year and has had a few highlight plays in the season’s first half.
Saturday @ Rockets (24-22)
The week ends with a trip to Texas to face the Rockets, who after a slow beginning to the season have moved into 7th place in the West and only 1.5 games behind Memphis for 5th place. Helping Houston in its playoff push is a 8-3 record in its last 11 games, after losing 4 straight. It’s pretty clear that this isn’t the same team that garnered so much negative attention at the beginning of the season. With the way other teams are playing it’s still pretty funny to think back only 3 months ago when Houston was seen as a legitimate championship contender after reaching the Western Conference finals last summer. Unfortunately, the team started the season 5-10, ultimately firing head coach Kevin McHale. Players might have enjoyed the summer a little too much, and it’s well documented that star James Harden was out of shape to start the year. But what’s to be expected when you spend the summer partying with the Kardashians and signing a $200 million shoe contract.
Houston has responded to the slow start by getting to the 5th highest PPG in the league, at 104.7 per game. Also helping the Rockets, they are first in free throw attempts and steals, so Washington will need to focus on limiting fouls and turnovers, two areas they’ve struggled.
Although he’s been the subject of plenty of jokes in the past, Dwight Howard is also rounding into shape after early season back issues. In 9 January games Dwight is averaging 17 and 13, but is out again to start the week with a sprained ankle. Working in Washington’s favor Houston is bottom 8 in defense and bottom four in turnovers.
After heading to Houston, Washington heads to Oklahoma City before returning home to face Golden State.
Spurs-Warriors tonight (MON) 10:30 PM
- Cover Photo: John Wall drives for two of his 36 points during the Wizards’ 119-117 loss to the Celtics at Verizon Center. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)