This week will feature Washington’s toughest test of the season. 48 hours after playing at one of the toughest arenas in the league in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder are 22-5, the Wizards will return home to host the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, as they march towards history and breaking the 72 win record by the 95-96 Bulls. As if the test wasn’t already hard enough, the entire team will not be together, although this time not because of injury. On Saturday, Coach Randy Wittman’s older brother unexpectedly passed away. Wittman, already in Houston at the time, elected to coach in the Wizard’s 123-122 win on Saturday, but will miss Monday and Wednesday’s games. In his place, assistant coach Don Newman will lead the charge against the teams with the 4th and 1st best records respectively. I wanted to see Newman get the spotlight at least once this season, but that was more to see the reaction from NBA reddit/twitter to a head coach with an eyepatch. This is a sad and unfortunate situation for Wittman and his family, but his staff should be able to fill-in. It will be interesting to see whether Newman decides to continue starting Nene or revert back to Dudley.
There are 6 games left until the All-Star break. Below you’ll find the 6 best TV/Movie eye patch-wearing characters.
Snake of Escape from New York
Mad Eye Moody
Elle Driver of Kill Bill Vol. 2 (Warning Graphic Content)
Number Two of Austin Powers
“Rooster” of True Grit
Nick Fury of the Avengers
This Week’s Matchups
Monday @ Thunder (36-13)
Up first are the 3rd seeded OKC Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Washington has never beaten the Thunder in Oklahoma City, and haven’t beaten the team on the road since Kevin Durant’s rookie year, the last season in Seattle. The first meeting of the season was certainly one of the worst losses of the season. The team was blown out at home in its first National TV game of the season. Washington was down 14 after the 1st quarter, down 18 at halftime, and couldn’t recover even as Durant didn’t play at all in the 2nd half. Russell Westbrook had a 20 point triple double, while Wall had possibly his worst game of the season, leaving with 9 points (30%), 5 assists, and a +/- of -19 in 25 minutes. The Wizards have a better and healthier roster this meeting, with Jared Dudley in better shape, Garrett Temple improved after playing so much with Beal out, Beal available after missing game 1 with a sore shoulder, and Nene playing after missing the 1st game with back spasms.
Surprisingly, Oklahoma City is only 11-9 against the East, including losses to the Nets on the road and Knicks at home. Despite the new head coach, the playbook is still the same, as it should be. Give the ball to Westbrook or give it to Durant. As with many remarkable performances this season, OKC has gone a little under the radar because of the dominance of Golden State and San Antonio, who is only 5 games ahead in the loss column. The stars are shining in Oklahoma City, and the Wizards come in Monday looking to put them out.
The Matchup to Watch
Wednesday vs. Warriors (44-4)
Wednesday things don’t get any easier for the Wizards. After going into OKC, Washington returns home to face the top seeded Golden State Warriors, who are on pace to break the all-time record for wins in a season (72). If you’ve watched Washington at all this season, it’s obvious that they are not the same team at home that they are on the road, but in the opposite way of most teams. As of Monday afternoon, Washington is 10-15 at home and 11-9 on the road. Home losses to teams below .500 include Portland, Denver, Los Angeles and New York. The Wiz are also 1-4 in the last 5 home games, losing as many games in that stretch as GSW has lost all year. Looking across the page to Golden State, things certainly look frightening.
Golden State mind-blowing statistics and rankings:
- #1 in assists per game (29.2) – 4 more than the next team
- #4 in rebounds per game (48.8) – Wizards are #30
- #1 in OffRtg, #2 in DefRtg
- #1 in FG% (49.1)
- #1 in 3FG% (42.8)
As you can see the team is clicking on all sides offensively, and the constant offensive pressure, hurts opponents, who often press to push the pace and play catch up. The Warriors have won 95 straight games when up by 15 points at any point in the game. Their last 7 games (all wins) Golden State has been up by at least 15. Also, after losing two out of three games in mid January, Golden State responded by beating Cleveland by 34, Chicago by 29, San Antonio by 30, Indiana by 12, and Dallas by 20. It does seem that the Warriors have a tendency to overlook teams occasionally (as every teams does), as they blew a 24 point third-quarter lead in Philadelphia on Saturday, needing a Harrison Barnes three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left to avoid overtime.
What has made the Warriors so tough to guard? Firstly their versatility. Draymond Green has essentially played pseudo point guard, allowing Curry more time off the ball, running around screens to launch three pointers. He and Klay Thompson are averaging 50.8 points and attempting 18.2 three pointers per game (43.9%) and the constant off ball screens create a lot of confusion for defenses. You know they’re looking for a three, but knowing who or where is tough to decipher with two knockdown shooters. Even when there are no screens coming, Curry can elude even the best of defenders.
For Curry, who is on pace for 384 3PM (98 more than his current record), is making life miserable for defenders by shooting and making threes from further away than we’ve ever seen a player do before.
NBA players have been taught their entire lives to go under a screen that far from the hoop, as to not go over and get beat to the hoop, but as you can see Curry has no shot he doesn’t like. The Wizards are currently last in the league in opponents 3FG% so this should be fun!
For the Wizards they will be wearing new Chinese New Year’s jerseys for this game, but new jerseys most likely won’t bring a new result.
Scheduling: Wizards will travel to Oakland for the second of the two meetings on March 29th. Both meetings will be on National TV (ESPN and TNT).
Friday vs. 76ers (7-41)
Luckily for the Wizards they get to follow-up playing the top team in the league, by facing the worst. Philly started the season 1-30, and had a lot of negative press because of how amazingly terrible the team was, and because of multiple off-court issues for #3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor. After bringing Jerry Colangelo onto the staff, the team made some moves to be more competitive, most notably trading with New Orleans for Ish Smith, who began the season on Washington’s training camp roster. The Sixers are a respectable 6-11 in the last 17 games and Smith is averaging 16 and 8 over that stretch.
Okafor has had an up-and-down start to his NBA Career, averaging 17 pts and 7 rebs, but moving to a bench role after a recent illness. Having a competent point guard has allowed Philly to move the ball more and not rely on simply throwing the ball into Okafor every play. When Okafor does get the ball, he’s showing off a variety of especially impressive post moves.
The Wizards should flourish offensively and defensively, as PHI ranks 30th in PPG, 30th in turnovers, 26th in RPG, 24th in Assists, and 26th in opponents points per game. Hopefully, Wall and the defense can push the defensive pedal and turn those turnovers to fast break points. This should be Randy Wittman’s first game back, and the team will most certainly look to rally around their coach and play with a lot of heart, as they did on Saturday against Houston.
Scheduling: Next three meetings: @ 2/26, vs. 2/29, @ 3/17
CHARLOTTE, NC – NOVEMBER 25 (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Saturday @ Hornets (23-25)
Saturday the Wizards play game three of four against Charlotte on the season. The teams have split the first two meetings, each winning on its home court. In the loss in Charlotte, Washington shot 36% to 47% by the Hornets, committing 5 less turnovers, yet losing by 14. In the win, the Wizards 50% to Charlotte’s 42, and were +7 on FTs. John Wall and Kemba Walker will be the two to watch in this. Walker is one week removed from winning his 3rd career player of the week reward, when he averaged 34.8 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 2.25 steals, while leading the Hornets to 3-1. Despite the strong week, Charlotte has been overall pretty disappointing since a strong 15-10 start (8-15 since).
Charlotte is still without center Al Jefferson who had surgery on a torn meniscus on December 30th, but they just got great news with the surprise return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG was originally expected to miss close to the entire season, but returned having only missed 46 games. In 2 games against Portland and Los Angeles he’s averaging 16 points and 9.5 rebounds, shooting 73% on 15 shots. As you can tell from his shot chart the majority of his shots are coming from right at the basket, but he’s taking threes when available and open.
Charlotte is 4-5 in the division while the Wizards are 7-3. Despite the huge loss in the first meeting, Washington has taken care of business in the division and seem to enjoy playing games on the road currently. Washington is certainly a more talented team, but as is always the case, you have to make shots to win the game. Wall’s numbers against CHA are right at his averages, but Gortat is up about 4 points per game.
The away feeds aren’t always available for Saturday games as there are usually too many games. If I can’t watch Phil and Buck, I’m pretty excited to watch the Charlotte announcers.
Scheduling: vs. April 10
Alternate defense for Steph Curry