The 23-28 Wizards come out of the symbolic halfway point of the NBA season 3 games out of the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, looking to finally put together a stretch of games that can move them into playoff contention. The issue with the “halfway point” is that the season is actually 11 games past the midway mark. Washington has 31 games left in its season, which has been marred by sub par defense and injuries. To finish 41-41 Washington must win 18 of its last 31 games.
If there are any positives looking ahead the rest of the way, Washington has the “easiest” schedule according to opponents records. Washington still plays Philly (8-45) 3 more times, Minnesota (17-37) and Brooklyn (14-40) 2 more times, and Phoenix, the Lakers, and the Knicks each 1 more time, who have a combined 48 wins between the three. Phoenix and LAL are competing for a top 3 pick with Philly and Boston (via Brooklyn), so the teams still have plenty of tanking to do.
With the trade deadline approaching (Thursday at 3pm ET), the team could stick together, make a minor move, or explore larger offers (see Ryan Anderson). The trade doors have already opened with the two teams in front of the Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings seemingly upgrading their rosters. Detroit traded guard Brandon Jennings and forward Ersan Ilyasova to Orlando for 23-year old stretch-4 Tobias Harris. Charlotte, fresh off losing Michael Kidd Gilchrist for the rest of the season, acquired guard Courtney Lee from Memphis in a 3-team trade. Both teams are pushing hard for the playoffs, and putting a lot of pressure on Ernie Grunfeld and his group to improve Washington’s roster by tomorrow’s deadline.
Unfortunately the schedule this week will not help the Wizards’ push for the playoffs much. All three teams are right in the playoff race and above .500, while Washington will have to play the rare back-to-back-to-back Thursday through Saturday as the January game against the Jazz was rescheduled for February 18th. With the upcoming stretch, we’ll take a quick look at some of the best trilogies and trios in recent memory.
Toy Story Trilogy
The Bourne Trilogy
Dark Knight Trilogy
Austin Powers Trilogy
Harry, Ron, and Hermoine
The Men from Friends
The Women from Friends
The Men from Seinfeld
The Big Three, aka “The Heatles”
This Week’s Matchups
Thursday vs. Jazz (26-26)
Washington’s three game slate begins with the Utah Jazz coming to town to complete a game that was originally postponed because of the massive snowfall that fell in DC in late January. Utah is one of only two teams that Washington has not played yet this season, the other being Minnesota. The Jazz are currently in 8th place in the West, but still fighting to move up with Houston only half a game back. Utah has won 8 of its last 10 games, including a stretch of 7 straight before a 4 point loss in New Orleans prior to the All-Star break. In 2016 guard Rodney Hood has established himself as an important starter to a potential playoff team, and is averaging 20 points in his last 10 games. The usually steady Gordon Hayward is still his normal self, controlling the ball on offense, and contributing in points, rebounds, and assists. Power forward Derrick Favors has played 9 games since returning from a month-long absence, and it’s no coincidence that Utah has won 7 if the 9 games. Favors is averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds in those 9 games, right at his season averages.
On a team level Utah is still a .500 team, despite ranking 26th in PPG, 21st in rebounds, and 29th in assists per game. That will obviously help a Washington team that struggles to defend opposing offenses, especially behind the three point line, where Utah shoots 35.4%, slightly above average.
Last season Washington was 2-0 against the Jazz. Wall averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 7 assists on 61% shooting, while Gordon Hayward posted averages of 21, 5.5, and 3.5 on 39% shooting. The Wiz held Utah to 84 points in both meetings.
Scheduling: Wizards will travel to Utah on Friday, March 11. This will be the first game of 3 games in 4 nights.
Last Note: Utah has some of the most unrecognizable players in the league: Raul Neto (starting point guard), Joe Ingles, Chris Johnson, and Tibor Pleiß (never even seen this symbol before).
Friday vs. Pistons (27-27)
Friday Washington hosts another .500 team on the edge of the playoff race. Detroit has been up and down this season, but things are poised to change after the Tuesday trade with Orlando. Newcomer Tobias Harris missed games prior to the All-Star break with a sprained ankle but appears to be ready to step right in to a Detroit line up that is now looking for a playmaker at power forward. Harris and Marcus Morris should be able to switch seamlessly between SF and PF which, paired with All-Star center Andre Drummond, should create a very flexible offense and defense for the Pistons. If Harris does play, this will be his first game with Detroit, so don’t expect to see anything too different from Harris’ game in Orlando, and according to coach Stan Van Gundy, he’ll probably come off the bench, “for the first three games at least.”
This is the second of four meetings between the two teams, with the Wiz winning back in November by 2 points. The Wizards moved to 6-4 on the season, the last time the team was two games above .500; Damn it’s been a long season. In that game, Washington held Drummond to 8 points on 3-6 shooting. As the game was nearly 3 months ago my memory is not great of the game, but the box score is one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen for a Wizards win. John Wall and Bradley Beal were -20 and Marcin Gortat was -22. Otto Porter was the only player to play more than 30 minutes, and the only starter to hit a 3 pointer. Kris Humphries started at PF and was 0-7 shooting from the field in 17 minutes. The starters shot two more 3-pointers than free throws. The starters only shot seven free throws, making four. The Wizards’ bench absolutely crushed Detroit’s reserves as Nene led the team in points with 18 on 9-10 FGs, while Ramon Sessions led the team in assists with 9. Detroit’s bench is still terrible, except for the addition of Tobias Harris, so look for Washington to still enjoy an advantage in this regard.
Interestingly, because Washington has already played Orlando four times, Tobias Harris will have played Washington seven times by the time the regular season is over. In the four matchups with Orlando, Harris has averaged 12 points and 6.5 rebounds on 48 FG% and 11 3p%.
Scheduling: vs. Pistons 3/14, @Pistons 4/8
Last Note: Reggie Jackson (aka Bobby Shmurda) and Kentavius Caldwell-Pope, who both missed the last game for Detroit should be good to go on Friday.
Saturday @ Heat (29-24)
Washington’s last game of the tough three in three stretch will see the Wizards head to Miami for the last of four season meetings. Washington is 2-1 so far having won the previous game in Miami. The Heat, although in 5th place in the conference, are currently dealing with another health scare regarding star forward Chris Bosh. Dealing with another case of potential blood clots, Bosh is taking blood thinners to allow him to play out the rest of the season. The Heat have already said that he will not play in Friday’s game against Atlanta, but his status is uncertain for Saturday. Blood clots are bigger than a simple sports injury, as they can genuinely risk a player’s life. It’s thought that the team’s recent stretch of 14 of 16 games on the road has been a reason for this, as the constant time in high altitude is believed to have an effect in most cases.
Anyway, on to the game, Miami is really in a tough place without Bosh. Dragic has struggled in his first full season with Miami, posting 12 points and 33% shooting from the 3-point line, his worst output since 2011-2012. Starting center Hassan Whiteside is involved in trade rumors because of his upcoming free agency and general bone-headedness. Assuming he’s not traded (possibly for Dwight Howard), Whiteside will continue to anchor the defense, where he’s averaging 3.9 blocks per game. Whiteside has 3 triple doubles this season, all with double digit blocks. Also, hilariously noted on Twitter is Hassan’s lack of use on offense, besides offensive rebounds and alley-oops.
Whiteside will be coming off of a one game suspension for his elbow earlier this month on Boban Marjanovic.
In the two wins this season Washington is averaging 110 points, against a Miami team that allows an average of 96 points per game to opponents. Washington won both games by a combined 30 points, and shot just over 50%. Miami’s pace has really hurt the team. In the first Washington win the Wizards shot 10% less from the field, but attempted 23 more shots, allowing them to win by 11. In the second win, Washington took 18 more shots than Miami, leading to a 19 point win. Controlling pace and limiting turnovers should allow the Wizards to continue their unprecedented strong play against Miami.
Last Note: One of my favorite recent NBA vines featuring Whiteside and UMD product Alex Len.
Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld once traded this:
Here’s to a good deadline!