The Teams: Washington Wizards (1-12) @ New York Knicks (10-4)
The Location: Madison Square Gardens, New York, New York.
The Time: 7:00 PM EST
TV, Radio: CSNW, 106.7 FM
The History: Over 276 regular season games, the New York Knicks hold a significant advantage, winning 164 games to Washington’s 112.
The Washington Wizards, a day removed from their relieving 84-82 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers (their first of the season), travel to New York to take on a Knicks team that has cooled off significantly as of late. Although they beat the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night, they have lost three of their last five games played. Admittedly, all of those losses have come on the road, but two of them were against teams without a winning record (Dallas and Houston). Needless to say, they haven’t been playing particularly well after starting the season off on a nine-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, the Wizards are on their first win streak of the season. It wasn’t pretty against Portland, and they almost blew a fifteen point lead in the process, but it was their first victory. My guess is that the Washington Wizards would like to compliment that win with yet another one, but nothing about this season has proven to be predictable except for losses. Jordan Crawford had the hot hand against the Blazers, scoring 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field. He’ll look to ignite Washington’s offense yet again, as they’ll need it going up against a Knicks team that ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 102 points per game.
Why you should watch: A possible win streak against a team that may actually be beatable
I know it sounds ridiculous that a Wizards team that has lost 12 games this season while only winning one of those, but it’s actually possible. New York hasn’t been playing that well in the past week, as they’ve given up 96 or more points in four of their last five games. Teams that give up 100 points or more consistently can sometimes be beaten when their shots aren’t falling. If Carmelo Anthony, the team’s leading scorer and potential MVP candidate, and his shots don’t go down then the Wizards might be able to catch them off guard. That being said, considering ‘Melo has shot 50% or better in 7 of the 14 games that he’s played this season, it’s easier said than done.
But even if Carmelo Anthony does score, there’s a chance that the Wizards could still win by minimizing the impact of some of New York’s other players. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith, New York’s second and third leading scorer, are streaky shooters at best. Neither one is setting the world on fire, either, with both shooting 42% from the floor. If the Wizards can keep those two away from the three point line, then they may stand a chance at shutting down this offense altogether.
Yes, New York is balanced, but they’re also very streaky and when the three ball isn’t falling, they are prone to losing games.
Key Points and Storylines
1.) Jordan Crawford has to keep his hot hand going
When Jordan Crawford is actually hitting his shots, the Washington Wizards become a team that is capable of competing offensively with other teams, which given the defense they’ve been playing, is really all they need. Crawford has unfortunately not fared too well against the New York Knicks historically; he is shooting a woeful 23% from the field against them in 3 games over his career. Worse still, his road performance has been only slightly better this season; he’s hitting only 38.9% from the floor over six games. That really doesn’t bode well for the Wizards hopes of success.
Then again, Crawford is capable of going on five or six game hot streaks from the floor, as he did late last season where he had that many games shooting 45% or better from the field. Quite frankly, that’s all we’re asking out of the guy — go on a hot streak and establish yourself as a potent scorer. If he can do that against a Knicks team that will give him those kind of shots, then the Wizards may be in some luck.
2.) Kevin Seraphin and Nene have to use their athleticism tonight
The two best low post scorers for the Wizards are going to be facing a tough task tonight against one of the more impressive front court units in the NBA. Tyson Chandler is an expert at clogging up the lane for opposing big men, and Rasheed Wallace has channeled Father Time and asked for a career revival on the defensive end. Between those two, the Knicks have a front court capable of making life difficult for anyone with their length. In Nene and Seraphin, the Wizards have two guys who can score down low, but are considerably less vertically talented as Chandler and Wallace, meaning they will have to be crafty to score without being blocked.
Nene and Seraphin are both more athletic and quicker than their counterparts, so they may be able to sneak in a few baskets. They also have relatively decent shots from midrange, so that could force Chandler and Wallace to venture a bit further out from the hoop. Doing that would open up the lane for Crawford and (hopefully) Beal to slash the lane. If they can manage that, the Wizards will be headed towards another victory.
Prediction: Washington probably doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with a Knicks team, and a loss after their first win seems entirely probable.
Knicks win 100-92
When noteworthy events happen in the land of the Washington Wizards we like to break down our opinions in a feature we call the “Pick and Pop”. Ending a 12 game losing streak to open the season and winning your first game in over 200 days seemed like as good a reason as ever to polish the old P&P off to share with you all today.
1) Thoughts on finally winning a game?
Willis: Celebrate good times, come on? How am I supposed to feel about winning one game in twelve? I’m a smorgasbord of emotion, mostly because we won a game in which no one played particularly well against a sub .500 team for the first time this season. We turned the ball over way too much (16), lost the rebounding battle (45-42), shot 15 fewer shots (86-71). The difference was literally that we made one more shot. If it weren’t for Jordan Crawford and the Trail Blazers missing nearly every shot they took, this is more than likely a loss.
But again, I’ll take it, because an ugly win is still a win. Kevin Seraphin got himself a double-double, and Damian Lillard was held in check by A.J. Price (who had himself another bad shooting night). I have a hard time being upset with the effort level, although blowing that 16 point lead shows clearly that we still have to work on some things.
Bohlin: IT HAPPENED!!! WE DID IT!!! Last night’s win over the Portland Trail Blazers was much needed for this franchise and its fan base. In typical Wizards fashion, this win did not come easy as Washington nearly choked away a double digit lead in the fourth quarter as they finished the game just one for their last eleven from the field.
That one shot was massive though. Jordan Crawford’s three pointer late in the fourth quarter and some timely free throw shooting by Emeka Okafor are what solidified this victory for the Wizards. Until Wall and Nene are back and healthy, or in Nene’s case as healthy as he can possibly be, it will take efforts like the one from last night and a few lucky bounces going our way for the Wizards to continue to notch victories under their collective belts.
2) What do we need to do to win a second game?
Willis: Continue to have some bounces go our way for once. The clutch shots toward the end of the game started going in for the Wizards, and that really helped out a bunch. Washington finally went on one of those runs that end up being insurmountable for an opposing team, and that 16 point run was what decided things. The starter still have to play better, as Ariza is not going to be 6-of-9 every game for Washington. Someone has to continue to emerge as a scorer outside of Kevin Seraphin. We’re looking at you, Bradley Beal.
That being said, the bench should simply continue their strong play with Jordan Crawford igniting the offense. I said in the offseason that his ideal role is a sixth man who can command a second unit and beat up on “scrubs”, and that’s what Crawford does. Portland’s second unit was horrible, and the Wizards beat them down.
Bohlin: Compete. The fact of the matter is that right now the Wizards don’t have the talent necessary to win NBA games with any sort of consistency. When a team is lacking in that area their best chance to be successful lies in the amount of effort they put towards their goal, victory. Until the Wizards get John Wall and Nene back for the long haul this team is going to have to outwork every opponent they face if they want to continue to enjoy the feeling that was felt throughout the Verizon Center by the Wizards faithful last night.
3) What is your starting five and why?
Willis: Beal, Crawford, Singleton, Nene, and Okafor
I don’t care if this means the Wizards don’t have a point guard, but I think these five give the Wizards the best chance to win and score points. Nene can dish out to Bradley Beal at the point, Crawford, at times, has proven himself to be a talented passer, and Singleton is a defensive presence that can guard wing players effectively. Meanwhile, Okafor takes up space. You could argue that Seraphin should be in there, but Nene and him are very similar in nature and would not really mesh that well.
I keep Beal in there as a starter because he simply has to get minutes. Relegating him to the bench with scant minutes and pummeling his already fragile confidence is the wrong thing to do. Eventually, he’s going to figure out how to play the game, and that comes with experience. No, we don’t want to give him the experience of losing, but when Washington won that game he really had nothing to do with it. His play was poor, and he got benched. He should still start.
1) Shaun Livingston
2) Jordan Crawford
3) Trevor Ariza
4) Kevin Seraphin
5) Emeka Okafor
The rotation for the Wizards has been a point of contention for a couple of weeks now. Randy Wittman has tried just about every possible combination imaginable for this team through the first 13 games and until last night not a single one of them had proven to be effective enough to win a game. If I making the lineups for Washington night in and night out this is how I would start each and every game until Wall and Nene return.
With Livingston running the offense players such as Jordan Crawford have the opportunity to do what they do best, score, because Livingston’s first inclination on offense is to create for others as A.J. Price’s first inclination has seemed to lie closer to finding his own shot.
Jordan Crawford, to this point, has been our most reliable offensive weapon which is saying a lot considering his reputation of being a volume shooter. His best role with this team will inevitably be coming off the bench as the team’s sixth man, however, with the Wizards performing as woefully on offense as they have been early on this season his inclusion into the starting lineup had to take place.
Ariza and Okafor need to start as they are our best two options at their respective positions and also the fact that they are two of the highest paid players on the team which, more times than not (Sorry Rashard Lewis), equates to big minutes and many starts over the course of 82 games.
Kevin Seraphin is my last choice as a starter. Seraphin has proven that the offensive display he put on at times in the Olympics was no fluke. His baby hook shot move in the paint has been largely unstoppable this season as Seraphin has become highly effective when taking that shot. He has earned this distinction with his play so far and will likely continue to see big minutes as the Wizards ease Nene back from his foot injury.
4) MVP and LVP so far
Willis: MVP is spelled Nene in my book. He’s our best player when healthy, and Washington plays considerably better the second he touches the floor. Without him, we’re still winless. I know he only had a modest 6 points and 6 rebounds last game, but his impact is felt in so many more ways than just in the box score.
I think back to when he actually manned the point and dribbled the ball up court (in a very unsightly manner, however), and didn’t turn the ball over. He scooped up a rebound, couldn’t find anyone right away, but took the ball up the court to eventually find a man. It’s not even a huge deal, but it’s just the smooth, calm, do-whatever-it-takes manner in which he plays that gives the Wizards a big boost of confidence.
LVP – Jan Vesely for so many reasons. He’s not very good and his PER of 4 shows that. Outside of Nene, Crawford, and Okafor, everyone else has been below average on the PER scale (15 is average, everyone aside from those three is below it). Beal and Price sit around 10, Ariza and Singleton around 13, but Vesely? Four. FOUR. He’s done nothing to convince me that he won’t be out of the league in another year or two when his contract runs out, mostly because I can’t think of anything he can do particularly well aside from rebound.
His complete lack of an offensive game from anywhere on the court outside of dunking tells me that he really, really needs to find a mentor or be relegated to trying to deflect tip ins at the end of games (as he did against Portland last night).
Bohlin: MVP: Jordan Crawford
Could you imagine how uncompetitive this team would be were it not for Jordan Crawford? Honestly, I don’t want to and am glad it is not something that is worthy of discussion. The shooting guard from Xavier has been exactly what the Wizards need him to be so far as this team has struggled to put points on the board without him on the floor. It is very likely that Crawford’s role will change as the Wizards get closer to full health but he will remain a much needed weapon nonetheless.
LVP: Jan Vesely
As much as I want him to be good for this team the progression just hasn’t been there. David Aldridge said it best on Tony Kornheiser’s radio show in DC that Jan simply “Can’t play”. Aldridge went on to say how he doesn’t feel that Vesely will last five years in the league. That is the number six overall pick we are talking about here people. In last night’s win over Portland, Jan played a total of 0.2 seconds…and that was just so he could guard the Blazers last ditch inbound pass from half court. To say Jan has been a disappointment thus far isn’t doing justice to the word disappointment. He may turn it all around and prove Aldridge, Kornheiser, myself and thousands of other Wizards fans who feel the same way wrong, and I legitimately hope he does. I just don’t see it happening for him or this franchise any time soon. It’s really hard to take up for a guy who has five more fouls on the season than he does total points and is 3-13 from the foul line.
5.) Bradley Beal – What gives?
Willis: He can’t shoot, that’s what gives. That is largely based on the fact that he has little confidence in himself, so that will hopefully change. But he takes a lot of midrange jumpers, and those are suicide for a rookie scorer in the NBA. That’s a veteran shot, not one for the young bucks like Beal. His tendency to be inanimate on the offensive end kills him overall, and he simply has to work more on being aggressive (while playing smart at the same time).
On a positive note, he can rebound relatively well for his position, and he knows how to move the ball around and not have the offense die as soon as he touches it. But until he can start to contribute on the offensive end, which is what he was brought in to do, his play will draw the ire of Wizards fans who watch Damian Lillard, Brandon Knight, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist shine.
Heck, of all the rookies playing right now, Beal has been far less impressive than almost all off them. Harrison Barnes is starting to get it, Andre Drummond has been surprisingly effective, John Henson has done the same thing. Of the first ten picks, only Terrence Ross and Austin Rivers have had less of an impact. That’s not good.
Bohlin: It has been an up and down start to young Bradley Beal’s NBA career. Being shoved into the spotlight without your starting point guard, John Wall, and one of the league’s best big men in creating space for shooters, Nene, has put him behind the 8 ball. Unlike Vesely, Bradley Beal has shown flashes of the skillset that many fans saw during his time at Florida. I said it over the summer before we drafted Beal that he will benefit more so than any other player on our roster from playing with Wall and Nene. The addition of those two to the lineup will provide Bradley with more opportunities to take open shots while not being the main focal point of the opposing defense. I still think Bradley Beal is going to be a very effective NBA player for a long time, it’s far too early to pass judgment on him otherwise.
The Teams: Washington Wizards (0-12) vs Portland Trail Blazers (6-8)
The Time: 7 PM
The Place: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
The History: The overall series nod goes to the Trail Blazers, who have a slim 52-49 advantage in the win column.
Here we go again. The Washington Wizards look to end their season-long losing streak in the final game of their three-game home stand against the Blazers. Coming off a brutal 118-92 drubbing by the San Antonio Spurs, Washington has had over 24 hours to brood and get over a loss that typified the season as a whole. Well, the Wizards are going to need some luck to break through that win/loss barrier tonight, and considering how little they have had of it this season, tonight feels like they may catch a break.
The Blazers are on a two game losing streak, having dropped road games to the Brooklyn Nets and the equally-as-woeful-as-the-Wizards Detroit Pistons. They have been playing poor defense and are relying entirely too heavily on All-Star forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge to win games. As a result, they have lost three of their last four. Their rookie phenom Damian Lillard has also had his fair share of struggles shooting the ball as well, leading to the Blazers being under .500 for the first time this season. So will the Wizards get a win tonight?
Why you should watch: Damian Lillard is an absolute animal
Damian Lillard, the guy the Wizards passed up on with the third pick in the draft, was not expected to be this good, this soon. Averaging 19 points, 6 assists, and shooting 40% from long range isn’t something you would expect from a rookie point guard, but here we are. Lillard has set the league on fire and is a major reason why the Blazers have any wins at all. When he’s on, they are a formidable Western Conference team with a deadly in and out game. Without him, they are a poor shooting unit that has no real scoring options outside of LaMarcus Aldridge.
Lillard, as I said before, has had some issues with knocking down shots over the last two games. He’s only hit eight of his last 30 shots, and unsurprisingly the Blazers have lost both matches. He hasn’t been particularly good on the road this season, shooting 41% from the field (as opposed to his 47% mark at home), which bodes well for the Wizards. Slowing him down will be a difficult task given how well he excels at the pick-and-roll offense, but it isn’t impossible. Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons gave him work, and on the defensive end he hasn’t shown that he is elite by any stretch.
Take some time out of your night to watch him go to work, because you’ll be amazed at how talented he is.
Keys to the game/Storylines
1.) Bradley Beal’s shooting has to improve
Bradley Beal is frustrating a lot of fans (myself included) with his lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end of things. Far too often, he settles for midrange jumpers and three point shots instead of being as aggressive as his natural ability say he should be. For rookie shooters, the midrange jumper is a very, very common mistake. In college, they were able to get that kind of shot off with ease, and for whatever reason believe that they made a lot of them when in reality the midrange jumper is a veteran’s move.
Young players should be aggressive going to the hoop and trying to draw fouls, neither of which Beal is doing. Given that he’s shooting 32% from the floor on the season and hitting almost 90% of his free throws, statistically he should be begging to get to the line. The Wizards need him to be aggressive tonight and make some easy shots in order to get out of this funk that he’s been in.
2.) Stopping LaMarcus Aldridge
Part of the reason why the Blazers lost their game against Brooklyn was because Aldridge wasn’t playing due to a sore back. His numbers are down across the board from last year, but barely. He’s still averaging 20 points and 8 rebounds a game, which will suit the Blazers just fine. On his return against Detroit he had 32 points and 10 rebounds, which signals that he should be just fine against Washington. Okafor is going to have to play some tough nosed defense in order to contain Aldridge this game, other wise this game will get cracked open quickly.
Prediction: Wizards match up somewhat adequately with the Blazers, and thus take a homer’s victory against a team on a cold streak.
Wizards win 99-97
7:03 PM: The Wizards are about to tip off, and the Verizon Center would be wise to inject some noise into the arena, because you could hear a pin drop in here.
7:10 PM: Wizards play the Meow Mix theme song while introducing the Bobcats…they’ve gotta get creative to keep the fans attentive. I like where this is headed. Big Tigga just asked the fans to make some noise, and let me tell you there was NO noise. Every fan needs to be given a megaphone from this point on. Or they should raise the symbols on the court to give the Wizards an extra defensive advantage.
7:15 PM: Kemba Walker hits a step back jumper like he did in the Big East tournament a couple years ago. I can say I might be wrong about him becoming a competent player. He was talented in college, but I didn’t think he was tall enough or good enough of a shooter to become a starter in the league. Instead, he finds ways to get around people and plays the game smart. I still have my doubts about his longevity in the league, but for now I’m wrong.
7:20 PM: Wizards down 12-10 with 5:52 left in the first quarter. Thoughts so far? Everything the Wizards do is sloppy. Including the T-Shirt toss, which slung a shirt into a young fan’s face. #BecauseWizards
7:30 PM: Remember when Ben Gordon was on the Bulls? LOL. In other news, the Wizards
8:15 PM: The Washington Wizards lead at halftime 51-50, thanks in large part to six Wizards players being between six and nine points. It’s a back and forth game that is going to be decided in the last few seconds. I’m impressed with two things. The completely empty section in 315 providing a major morale boost, and Bradley Beal’s all around game. He has 4 rebounds and 4 assists in spite of seemingly disappearing the whole game. He impacts it in such an odd way. He has hit one shot, but he has seven points. It doesn’t feel like he’s done anything, but there he is doing the best in the box score of anyone. How? Touch passes to the right shooter at the right time. He holds onto the ball for less than a second before making a move to either A.) the rack or B) another man for an assist. Not a bad way to play.
Meanwhile, the second pick in last year’s draft has 6 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists but has three fouls. His impact has been negated due to those fouls, but boy is he active. You can always tell when he’s on the court, which is the exact opposite of Beal.
8:33 PM: Right after I say that MKG affects the game differently, we get a glimpse of it to start the second half. MKG glides in for a layup, steals the ball, then jams it all in about five seconds. Do Beal and Satoransky= MKG? Probably not…Sucks that we didn’t have the second pick.
The Teams: Charlotte Bobcats (6-5) @ Washington Wizards (0-10)
The Time: 7 PM
The Location: Verizon Center. Washington, D.C.
TV, Radio: CSNW, 106.7 FM
The History: The Wizards had previously won their last five contests against the Bobcats, until November 13th of this year when they dropped a game 92-76.
The Washington Wizards are hurting this year, having started the season with ten straight losses and no victories. For the past few seasons, a game against the Charlotte Bobcats would have been a remedy for a losing streak of epic proportions. Unfortunately this year, that simply isn’t the case. The Bobcats come into the District having won five of their last seven games of basketball. The only thing these two teams have in common is that they both dropped their last game to the Atlanta Hawks, with the Bobcats falling 101-91 at home yesterday.
Aside from that loss, the Bobcats have been nothing but trouble for teams, with an impressive victory against the Memphis Grizzlies last week establishing them as a much improved team. Head coach Mike Dunlap has them playing very good basketball on the defensive end, and passable offensive play as well. Rookie small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is as advertised, averaging 11 points and 7 rebounds on the year. Thing is, MKG isn’t their only weapon, as the Bobcats have six players scoring in double figures this year. Ramon Sessions, the traveling suitcase of a player, has finally made a home for himself in Charlotte, where he is an early candidate for Sixth Man of the Year with his play off the bench.
Needless to say, this game won’t be easy for the Wizards.
Keys to the Game/Storylines
1.) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs Bradley Beal
No, these two players do not play the same position, but they were the second and third pick in the previous NBA draft and as such their histories will be closely linked. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has, as I previously stated, been a stud this year for the Bobcats. He is one of their best players, and has scored in double figures in 8 of their 11 games this season. Against the Hawks last night, MKG scored only 11 point, but he also impacted the game in ways that many players can’t. He also grabbed seven rebounds, but he blocked four shots as well, giving him 18 on the season. For a small forward, that number is absurd.
Meanwhile, Beal has been good but not really great. His 33% shooting from the field ranks him as the second worst rookie who is playing 15 minutes or more this year. His poor play recently relegated him to the bench, but only for one game. He started against the Hawks, but shot poorly and finished with 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. He marred that performance with five turnovers, however, and he really hurt the team with those.
Both players are young, but so far it is glaringly apparent that one has been far more impressive than the other.
2.) Nene-Nene, Nene-Nene, Hey-hey hey, good try!
Nene debuted for the Wizards in the same fashion that he did after last year’s midseason trade: impressively. In 20 minutes of play against the Hawks, Nene scored 12 points off the bench by getting to the line numerous times. His presence and talent level was something the Wizards sorely missed, and it is clear that even in diminished health Mr. Hilario will be a boon for the Wizards front court.
With the poor performance of Emeka Okafor, Nene is a major upgrade who can sop up Okafor’s minutes that he doesn’t try. Given how much better of a scorer Nene is, the Wizards should see a major advantage in that department down low, which is something that they haven’t done well this season.
Take note, however. Nene only had one rebound last game, which is a very unusual number for a big man. His rebounding issues have been documented, so hopefully that is an aberration.
Prediction: The Wizards finally get a win with a rested, relatively healthy team who came off a tough loss where they played well. Bradley Beal rises to the occasion and outshines the person taken ahead of him in the draft.
The Teams: Washington Wizards (0-9) vs Atlanta Hawks (5-4)
The Time: 7:30 PM
The Location: Phillips Arena. Atlanta, Georgia
The Coaches: Randy Wittman (18-40 with Wizards) and Larry Drew (89-68 with Hawks)
The History: In 274 games, the Wizards have lost to the Hawks more than they’ve won, being down 141-133 all time. They’ve played a lot over the years and this is one of their closer series all time, so it’s typically a good ball game every time these two teams step onto the court.
Why you should watch: Nene is coming back!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halleeeeeelujaaaaah! With reports coming out that Nene is expected to be in action for the first time Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks, Wizards fans breathe a collective sigh of relief. Well, what’s left of the fan base that has been bludgeoned nine times to the face this year through loss after loss. But now, Nene is back to bolster a frontcourt that has been shredded game after game in the paint and has been unable to score too much there either.
Nene brings both, and a bit of rebounding prowess that might offset the inability of a certain French forward, and with them he also brings the promise of shattering that unsightly goose egg in the win column. Last season when the Wizards traded for Nene, they got considerably better as a direct result. They weren’t blowing teams out, of course, but they were actually winning. If he can provide similar results, Wizards fans will embrace him with open arms.
Key Points and Storylines
1.) What impact will Nene have?
Look, who knows what version of Nene we’re going to be getting. That has to be said, because he has yet to play a single game of basketball during this short NBA season, and it may take him awhile to get the hang of things again. He’s a fantastic player, but it might take time for him to get back into the swing of things. If he can make a quick recovery, then this team will be all the better for it. Conversely, if he looks slow and rushed back onto the court, then it will show and the Wizards may still be better served waiting more time for him to come back.
Nene is going to be asked to rebound and defend a lot since Okafor is in the dog house (really, the entire team is in the dog house). I’m just not sure he can do that right away…
2.) Can the Wizards shoot better?
Shooting under 40% as a team for the entire season (dead last in the NBA) is a recipe for an 0-9 season. The Wizards have followed that recipe to a T, and if they were wise, would do their best to deviate a bit from that course. Without better shooting, Washington will continue to pile up losses. Having one of the most efficient shooters/scorers in the NBA today in Nene will be a huge boon for getting that number above 40%, but that won’t change the fact that the Wizards take bad shots.
Early in the shot clock three pointers by A.J. Price and Jordan Crawford don’t help a lot, and Bradley Beal going 4-12 (as he did last game) has to change. Taking good shots is directly correlated to how many points this team has been scoring, which at 89 per game is last in the NBA as well. Changing that number, given the somewhat passable defense they’ve been playing, might secure a victory for Washington.
Prediction: Wizards win a close one against their divisional rival Atlanta Hawks ON THE ROAD in Nene’s return.
Heading to the arena, I knew last night was destined to be a night of firsts; I only could hope that one of those firsts include the Wizards’ finally landing on the winning side of things this season. Being new to this whole blogging thing (and being a player through college, not a journalist), I haven’t really experienced a “welcome to the media” moment until last night.
How was the game, a Pacers-Wizards matchup with the Wiz still desperate for the year’s first one, special you ask? The reason being it was my first opportunity of the season to take advantage of one of the Dime’s newest additions to our team, official Media Credentials. Entering the Verizon Center through the media entrance definitely made me feel pretty boss, but once I was presented with a personal badge for the game (name and affiliation included) I knew that not even another Wizards loss would be able to prevent me from having a good night.
Our next pre-game stop was the media lounge, where we would get a stats packet, our section assignments, and some pregame refreshments. The buffet surprisingly featured pork roast and leg of lamb, and even more shockingly at the table next to me sat David Alridge, a real NBA media vet. That’s when it all really sank in, and I realized that I was no longer just a fan, but a member of the media; during my career I never thought I would end up going this route, I always thought the media was a pain in the ass more than anything, but I can say that last night really validated the decision to start writing for me. After a short time, we headed up to our assigned section and prepared for the start of the game.
After an awkward set of player introductions where the loudest ovation may have been gone to the Pacers Roy Hibbert (a former Hoya), the Wizards came out flat as a board and got down big early. Hibbert, David West, and Paul George paced Indiana’s early scoring, and Washington stood offensively watching Jordan Crawford and A.J. Price force up contested jumpers. The Wizards fell behind 21-6 in the first quarter, and were never fully able to recover. It was not until the second unit, featuring Brad Beal, Shaun Livingston and Kevin Seraphin, hit the floor that the Wizards showed any signs of offensive life.
Lackadaisical second quarter effort from the Pacers and steady play from the bench unit was able to cut the lead going into halftime only down 9. The half was full of forced jumpers and bad isolations, but I liked the way the offense looked with Livingston at the point. With his size, we were able to use his post-up game and 1-on-1 ability against his smaller defender to get some good looks. His unselfishness, and the fact that as a PG he isn’t interested in leading the team in shot attempts (like our current starter does), makes him the clear best option for the team moving forward.
The second half started with the Wiz on a run, forcing Frank Vogel to call an early timeout. He was able to settle the troops, and they again opened up a large lead against our “starters”. Insert Beal and Livingston, and the game again turned around with another huge late 3rd quarter run. The Wiz trailed by 4 going into the 4th, and were able to draw even on a few occasions during the quarter. However, down the stretch David West hit clutch jumper after clutch jumper, the offense sputtered to get shot attempts, and we ultimately fell to a more talented opponent 96-89. Small consolation, but Beal had a huge second half tonight, continuing his emergence over the past few games. He scored 17 points during the half, aggressively searching for his shot from distance and not hesitating to attack the basket. I’m happy to see him continue to develop, and only hope he continues to shoulder the scoring load (even off the bench).
However, the story of course is the Wiz’s futility: with another game and another disappointing loss, the Wizards losing streak has now extended to a franchise-worst 9 straight to start a season. Ouch. The Wiz created enough chances for themselves with their comeback effort to pull off the win, but they were unable to get over the hump yet again. The slow start really derailed things, and our inability to defend the paint and rebound defensively cost us big down the stretch and throughout the contest.
After the conclusion of the contest, we headed down to the media lounge yet again for Randy’s post-game comments. He did not have much to say, in fact, he even admitted to having no idea what to do to improve, how to create rotations or get the team in a better position to be successful. Well without being able to establish rotations or style of play, he basically told us he had no idea how to properly do his job. Randy looked and sounded like a man who knew his days on the bench were numbered. Things certainly are not entirely his fault, our roster without Wall and Nene is the least-talented in the NBA, but the coach is always the first to go when things snowball downhill.
We moved from there to the locker room for brief player interviews before they headed off into the DC night. Seraphin, Beal, Crawford, and Livingston all expressed similar sentiments: the team is talented enough to win, they believe they can win, once they win one they will run off a few more, and they need to start better and play 48 minutes in order to win. Saying the right things sure, but the body language for some of the guys suggested they might not buy the story they’re selling.
Going through losing streaks are extremely tough on any athlete’s confidence, and this type of historic losing is extremely troubling. We need to get the taste of victory and soon before negativity creeps in around the team to completely derail our season. After a short time, the small crowd of media was herded out of the locker room, and my first evening covering an NBA basketball game came to an end. Certainly an evening of firsts for me at the Phone Booth, and regardless of the result, it’s one I doubt I will soon forget.