Washington Wizards Head West for 5 game trip

Week 23: 5 Game Road Trip Preview

After a productive 5 game winning streak, the Wizards find themselves no closer to the playoffs than a few weeks ago after a five game losing streak.  Washington, still 3 GB of the 8th spot, has 10 games left, and the team they are chasing, Detroit, only has 8 games left.  A win Friday night at home against the Timberwolves would have made things much more reassuring, but instead in #SoWizards fashion, the team laid an early Easter egg by losing to the 5th worst team in the league record wise, in double OT.  Washington was up 7 with a little over two minutes left in the game, before collapsing, and becoming victims to the Karl-Anthony Towns – Zach Lavine superhero duo.

As has been the case for awhile, the Wizards will need to beat the teams they SHOULD, and get help from others to make up the 3 games in the standings.  The only thing really keeping Washington still in the playoff discussion is a somewhat difficult schedule for Detroit, and the two teams meeting in Detroit on April 8th.  That will give Washington a chance to make up a full game in the standings, so a Wizards loss there would essentially scrap the season.  Of course, Washington has to take care of business before then to have any shot.

Detroit's remaining schedule - Only Orlando is out of playoff contention
Detroit’s remaining schedule – Only Orlando is out of playoff contention

Unfortunately, in a weird scheduling quirk, Washington takes its longest road trip of the season with 3 weeks left in the season.  Washington will spend the next 8 days traveling the West Coast, as they play the Lakers, Warriors, Kings, Suns, and Clippers.  Because the team will spend a lot of time on planes and busses, we’ll take a look at some of the best movie/TV scenes involving those two modes of transportation.

Plane/Bus Scenes

This Week’s Matchups

Wizards last game against Kobe Bryant
(Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)

Sunday @ Lakers (15-57)

Washington’s first chance at redemption comes against the lowly Lakers.  Three days ago it seemed highly unlikely that the team wouldn’t have a chance to get above .500 after this game, but the loss to Minnesota really threw off that plan.  Instead, the team is just looking to get a game under .500.  It appears that The Lakers will be without starting guard D’Angelo Russell for this one, but Kobe Bryant should play in what will be his final game against John Wall and the Wizards.

Coach Randy Wittman has already stressed to the team to not look past the Lakers, who beat Washington back in December 108-104.  In that one, Kobe scored 31 points in 36 minutes for LA’s third win of the season.  Without Russell, look for Louis Williams to get the start.  He’ll bring elite 3 point shooting to the table, something Washington has struggled defending all season.  Another pain point for Washington has been free throw shooting.  On Friday, the Timberwolves were perfect, 22-22, while the Wizards were 16-23 (69%), including two huge misses by Marcin Gortat with the team down 1 with 15 seconds left.  On the season the Wiz rank sixth worst at 73%..

In the loss on December 2, the Wizards shot 4% better from the field than the Lakers, but committed 23 turnovers, while forcing 16.  The roster is certainly better now, with Markieff Morris on the squad, but he may not be available after injuring his calf against Minnesota.  One would assume an easy win for a striving Wizards team, but they’ve proved assumptions wrong the entire week, winning in Atlanta, but losing at home to Minnesota.

Last Note: Maybe Russell is missing the game with a case of snitchitis?

 

Washington Wizards Blog - Team faces off against Steph curry and the Warriors
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday @ Warriors (65-7)

Tuesday marks the teams chance to break the Warriors home win streak.  Coming into Sunday’s matchup with Philadelphia, Golden State has won 52 straight regular season home games, the longest streak in NBA history.  Obviously the team is also on pace to break the all-time record for wins in a season (72).  Although Golden State has been unstoppable at Oracle, and remarkable throughout the entire season, they have played down to opponents a lot, and will be without reserve Andre Iguodala, and big man Festus Ezeli.  If the Wizards have any chance to win (according to ESPN’s BPI it’s 10%), they’ll have to play defense, which they did not do at all back on February 3.  In DC, the Warriors scored 134 points, including 51 by Steph Curry, and 24 for Klay Thompson.  One positive from that game was John Wall, who had a season high 41 points and 10 assists, while shooting 17-25 from the floor.

This will be the first game of a back to back for both teams, so it will be interesting to see how they manage minutes for the key players.  The Wizards obviously need the win more, but the Warriors may have a better sense of urgency, with their goals of 73 wins and going undefeated at home still very much of importance.

The Warriors have succeeded greatly this season in part because of outstanding shooting (41.6% from 3, 1st in NBA), offensive efficiency (112.9 OffRTG, 1st), and defense (43% Opponent FG shooting, 2nd).  Also, it will be interesting to see how effective Morris is guarding Draymond Green, who commonly runs the offense for GSW.

Last Note: Maybe the Warriors really are getting too comfortable/cocky…

(Rich Pedroncelli/AP)
(Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Wednesday @ Kings (28-44)

The Wizards final trip to Sleep Train Arena comes Wednesday, as the team gets another test against Demarcus Cousins, arguably the leads top center.  Cousins, who is having his best season in the NBA, averages 27 points and 11 rebounds, while also making 1 three pointer a game.  Cousins has also been a commonly discussed trade target for the Wiz because of his dominance, and him being a college teammate of Wall.  It will be interesting to see how the Kings front office handles his situation this summer.

As for the Kings play so far this season, after seeming like a possible playoff team earlier in the year, they have again fallen off, now sitting 11th in the West and should have another top 10 pick in the draft this June.  The Kings offense has actually been pretty on point this year, as they are third in PPG and 4th in assists per game, but defensively they allow the most points per game to opponents.  This will benefit Washington’s pace of play, and a lax defensive effort from Sacramento will help a Wizards team coming off a game in Golden State the night before.

In the only other meeting this year, Washington won 113-99 back on December 21st.  Wall had a career high 19 assists in a game the Wizards played without Beal and Porter and with only 8 active players.  Gortat poured in 27 points and 16 rebounds, while Garrett Temple had a career high 5 three pointers.  Washington shot 50% from 2, 58% from 3, and had 31 assists and only 11 turnovers.  The Kings meanwhile shot 41% from 2, and 32% from 3.  All in all, one of the team’s best games of the season.

Last Note: Kings new arena looks pretty boss

 

Markieff Morris returns to Phoenix
AP Photo

Friday @ Suns (20-53)

Hopefully Morris’ calf ailment is nothing too serious, one because he is a big part to the Wizards key and was sorely missed on Friday against the Wolves, but two because I REALLY want to see him play against his former team in Phoenix.  He didn’t leave on the best terms, and has openly admitted that he still holds a lot of disdain for the organization.  He shouldn’t get a warm reception on Friday, but he should have a lot of  extra motivation.  Phoenix is currently one of the worst teams in the league, but did recently get guard Brandon Knight back to handle the point guard duties.  In his 21 game absence the team was 3-18, and 3-5 since his return, although the wins were against the Lakers twice and the Timberwolves.

The lone bright spot on a horrible season in Phoenix has been the play of rookie Kentucky product Devin Booker.  Booker is averaging 16.9 points as a starter, and had back to back 30 point games earlier this season.

In the game on December 4, Washington won 109-106, behind Beal’s 34 points.  This game won’t mean much though as guard Eric Bledsoe was still on the court, before needing season ending surgery on his knee a few weeks later. Washington did show a lot of fight however, coming from down 7 to start the fourth quarter.

Last Note: I’m sure there will be no love lost

 

Washington Wizards Blog - Blake Griffin returns Sunday against Washington

Sunday April 3 @ Clippers

The 5 game road trip ends next sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers.  Unfortunately for Washington it is also the return of equipment manager punching Blake Griffin.  It’s certain that the rest of the NBA will be keeping an eye on this to see how Blake performs.

Griffin was cleared to play today and will now serve his 4 game team imposed suspension, meaning he is now first eligible to play against Washington.  It will be worth monitoring how many minutes Griffin plays, seeing as he has missed the last 41 games of the season, and hasn’t played since Christmas Day because of a strained quad.  Griffin takes a lot of the playmaking duties from Chris Paul, allowing the team to be more versatile.  It’s also helpful for LA as they manage to always have one of the worst benches in the league.  Griffin missed the first game, but the Clippers still managed to win in DC by 17.  The Clips shot 52% while Washington shot 39%.  This was one of the many games that Bradley Beal missed in Dec/Jan.

The Clips have been on somewhat of a tough stretch, recently losing 5 of 6, before winning there last two games.  The Wizards haven’t won at the Clippers since February 13th, 2008, my junior year in high school, when Sam Cassell, now Clippers assistant coach, led LAC in assists.

Last Note:  That Portland win came at the buzzer via a JJ Redick shot.

Bonus Coverage

Relive John Wall’s 41 points against GSW from February

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