First off, that photo above? Somehow John Wall dunked that. A poster on AD. Things are pretty great.
The Wizards are rolling right now, there’s no other way to put it. The team has won 9 of its last 10 games, 12 of its last 14, and 15 straight home games at home. The lone loss in the last 10 games came on a tip in at the buzzer by Marcus Morris, over his twin brother Markieff. The team’s recent last week (4-0) detailed much of the insane play of the team. Last week, in 192 minutes of game time, the Wizards led for just over 190 minutes. The starters have been exceptionally efficient, while the bench has increased its level of play as well. Markieff Morris is playing some of the best basketball of his career, and certainly his best stretch as a Wizard.
As the team has succeeded, things we hope for are beginning to come to fruition. Early in the year it appeared John Wall may have been an All-Star snub because of the team’s lackluster record. Instead, as Washington sits 4th in the conference, 2.5 games out of the second seed, Wall was a shoe in, and there were (small) murmurs that Bradley Beal was snubbed. Additionally, Wall made comments early in the year about the team’s lack of national TV exposure and broadcasts, which can help to get players more endorsements and All-Star recognition. In January, TNT “flexed” two Wizards games onto the National TV schedule, hosting Cleveland and Oklahoma City. While this post is about Week 15, it’s hard to not look ahead to Week 16/17 when the Wizards have three National TV games in an 8 day period. All three are at home, which should help to get the team even more coverage.
Things have gone so swimmingly that ESPN’s Marc Stein bumped the Wizards from 9th to 4th on his most recent NBA Power Rankings.
Tuesday’s Win Vs. Knicks
This week began with the Wizards besting the New York Knicks at home. As this was the first game with seemingly grand expectations, there was a lot of pressure on the Wizards to not blow this game in classic #SoWizards fashion.
During the now 15 game home win streak, Washington has fallen behind by 10+ points three times. The Wiz fell behind early 16-8, but through the sloppy play, took a 5 point lead into halftime. The team opened it up in the third quarter, outscoring New York by 10, leading to what ended up being a blowout. This was especially important for the team as Scott Brooks looks to monitor the minutes played by the starters, who have held so much of the responsibility during the last two months. Otto Porter, who is battling a sore hip, was able to play only 29 minutes in the win, while Bradley Beal scored 28 points in 32 minutes.
The Knicks played without Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose, but that was somewhat expected when Phil Jackson put together a superteam full of walking renditions of Mr. Glass from Unbreakable. The Wizards and Knicks will play one more time this season in New York on April 6th.
Krewe Du Vieux, the unofficial start of the Mardi Gras festivities rolls next Saturday on February 11th. As the Wizards face the Pelicans twice this week, and the King Cake Baby is seemingly everywhere, we’ll take a look at the some of the best and most terrifying KCB moments since it was introduced.
Rest of the Week
The last two games of the week are against the Lakers and Pelicans. Same as the Knicks, these are non-playoff teams, so it will be key for the team to prove that the recent play has not been a fluke, and take care of business. A 3-0 week would put the team at 30-20, 10 games above .500.
Thursday vs. Lakers (17-34)
On Thursday, Washington faces the Lakers for the first time in the post Kobe era. The team has lost eight of its last ten games. The Lakers started the season 8-7 before losing 27 of its last 36 games. The team is driven by young top draft picks D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, while getting consistent contributions from Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Luol Deng and former Wizard Nick Young. Randle is dealing with a bout of pneumonia and is not a lock to play Thursday, after missing the previous two games.
Russell, the 2015 number two overall pick, returned from a three game absence on Tuesday, scoring 22 points, to go along with 7 rebounds and a career high 10 assists. Russell’s sophomore year has been somewhat disappointing, but he showed flashes of what the team hopes to see from him moving forward. If Randle misses the game, expect to see Russell dominate the ball handling duties again, and when hot, he can score from anywhere on the court. On the season he’s averaging 14.6 points per game with two threes made.
On the season, the Lakers are 5-21 on the road, and the only stat they rank among the top teams in the league is field goal attempts. Markieff Morris and the Zards have been great on the boards recently, which will help to start the fastbreak, and limit the Lakers second chance points.
Keep an eye on sixth man of the year candidate Lou Williams. With the Lakers falling out of the contention for the 8th seed in the Western Conference, many expect the Lakers to try to get more draft picks. Trading Williams could get LA a first round draft pick in return and help the team tank in order to keep its own first round pick, which Philadelphia owns but is top three protected. While Washington may not be willing to part with its first round pick for a second year in a row, Williams would be a massive addition to the Wizards bench. He is averaging 18 points and 39% shooting on threes for the season.
Saturday vs. Pelicans
The Wizards end the week with a rematch with New Orleans, this time at home. I don’t think anyone knows what to make of the Pelicans. Let’s take a trip through their last 2 weeks. Friday, January 20. Pelicans lose 143-114 to League worst Brooklyn Nets. With Anthony Davis. The Nets, losers of 11 straight, shot 58% during the game. Monday, January 23. Pelicans beat Eastern Conference favorite Cavaliers. Without Anthony Davis. Friday, January 27, Pelicans beat Spurs, 2nd best record in NBA. On Tuesday, the Pels lost to Toronto on the road in OT, yet on Wednesday they lost to the Pistons by 20.
You get the point, this team is very inconsistent. In the game in New Orleans on Sunday, the Wizards won by 13, in a game they led by 17 at halftime. The Pels did outscore the Wizards by 16 in the third quarter, causing mild uneasiness from the DC fans in attendance. But as has been the case over much of the last two months, the team was able to quickly turn things around, and dominated the fourth quarter.
In that game, Bradley Beal led Washington in scoring with 27 points on 11-16 shooting, and John Wall tied his career high with 19 assists. The five Washington starters combined for 96 points, one of the highest point totals of any starting lineup in the league this season.
For New Orleans, Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis combined for 62 of the team’s 94 points (66%), but was really hurt by the rest of the team combining for only 32 points. Holiday and Davis combined to shoot 26 of 44 (59%), while the rest of the team made 12 of 40 shots (30%). First round pick Buddy Hield really struggled in this game, missing all five of his shots for 0 points. In fact, the three starters other than Jrue and AD combined to make four shots. Tyreke Evans, probably the team’s third best player, came off the bench to score two points on 1-3 shooting.
Washington has excelled throughout it’s most recent run with outstanding offense, however, the team has also been locked in on defense as shown on Sunday. Hopefully the team can continue its success at home before a marquee stretch next week.
Next Week’s Slate
Monday vs. Cavs (TNT), Wednesday at Nets. Friday vs. Pacers (ESPN)