Tag Archives: Al Horford
The Teams: Washington Wizards (2-13) vs. Atlanta Hawks (10-5)
The Time: 7:30 PM
The Place: Philips Arena (Atlanta, GA)
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet, 106.7 The Fan DC
Tonight the Wizards make a return trip to the arena known as the “Highlight factory” to take on their divisional foe the Atlanta Hawks. This marks the second trip by the Wizards to Atlanta on the year as their first visit ended with a crushing last tenth of a second defeat. Thankfully, the Wizards have been playing pretty decent basketball as of late winning two of their last three games. Hopefully this road trip goes a bit better than the last trip the Wizards took away from home when they were blown out by the New York Knicks.
If you read the preview for the game against the Heat on Tuesday night you noticed that I stressed the effort level that the Wizards needed to exude to have a chance to win. The Wizards outworked the Heat on Tuesday night and that is why they were as successful as they were against the defending champions. Any loose ball or rebound was aggressively gone after by Washington and it helped propel them to victory. Randy Wittman stressed that the Wizards needed a “Statement game” against Miami and that is exactly what he got out of his team.
The Hawks come into tonight’s matchup having won seven of their last eight games with a two point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers being their only blemish on the current run they are on. Al Horford, who had 25 and 12 in a win over the Nuggets on Wednesday night, will be the Hawk to keep an eye on as he has posted a double-double in three straight games. Emeka Okafor, Kevin Seraphin and Nene will have their hands full with the Dominican center by way of the University of Florida this evening. If Horford is allowed to go off and have a big game a la the likes of David West, Roy Hibbert and every other opposing big man that has given it to Washington this season the Wiz Kids will have a steep hill to climb to win their second game in a row.
As has been the theme of the season so far, the Wizards will need a big game out of Jordan Crawford in order to remain competitive. With John Wall still out of the lineup without any indication of when he may return from his knee issues Crawford’s importance to this team has increased significantly. Despite coming off the bench and averaging only 30 minutes per game Crawford has proven to be the Wizards most reliable scoring option. Tuesday, Crawford led the team in points and assists coming off the bench. If he were to have a similar performance tonight in Atlanta I like the Wizards chances at winning back to back games for the first time this season.
Washington Wizards: 94
Atlanta Hawks: 90
The ongoing saga surrounding Dwight Howard has come to a close. Last night the all-star and former defensive player of the year was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four team deal.
With all the rumored offers on the table from teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets, the Magic decided to send Howard to Hollywood in return for Aaron Afflalo and a bevy of protected first round picks from teams that will almost assuredly be outside of the lottery. While the reasoning behind Orlando pulling the trigger on this deal at this time is perplexing to me, as I believe Brooklyn and Houston’s offers were better, it signifies that the Magic are entering “rebuilding mode”– which is great for the Wizards.
This marks the second time this offseason where a playoff team from the Southeast division has shipped their best player out of town (Joe Johnson to Brooklyn being the other instance). In each case the argument can be made that the Hawks and Magic took a step back (in Orlando’s case a few hops, skips and jumps back) in order to rid themselves of massive headaches inside their organizations.
How does all of this movement effect our Washington Wizards? In short, it brings them closer to the top of the division. While the Miami Heat are still the cream of the crop in the division, that race for number two in the Southeast is up for grabs.
Atlanta should still be competitive with Josh Smith and Al Horford in their lineup but the loss of arguably their best perimeter scoring threat in Joe Johnson will hurt. The thing about the Hawks is they are a much better team when Josh Smith isn’t continuously falling back in love with his jump shot. With Joe Johnson now gone, all I can see is J-Smoove thinking it’s his time to become “The Guy” on the perimeter for Atlanta. Keep pulling up from 18 feet and beyond and you’ll make a lot of Wizards fans happy, Josh.
Orlando has taken a massive step back and will more than likely be challenging the Bobcats for the Cellar Dweller award in the division. Without Dwight Howard in the fold first year head coach Jacque Vaughn has his hands full figuring out how to make this team competitive. They did pick up some nice young pieces in this deal in Afflalo and Mo Harkless, but to think that those two, in addition to Jameer Nelson and Hedo, will be enough to vault Orlando to the playoffs again is a bit extreme.
Charlotte, fresh off becoming statistically the worst team in NBA history, hasn’t done much to shake up their roster this offseason. In are Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions and out is D.J. Augustin. I think in time MKG will be an impact player for Charlotte but to think he’ll be able to really help carry the load on offense as a rookie is extreme. The fact of the matter is the Bobcats still aren’t much of a threat to do anything in the division with the roster they have assembled. Quite frankly I’m not sure why I dedicated this much space to a team that is coming off a 7 win season.
The Wizards are set up nicely to make a move towards the top of the division. With perennial playoff teams Orlando and Atlanta taking steps back it is possible to think that a 2nd or 3rd place finish in the division isn’t out of the question. The Southeast has been at least a three playoff team division for the past five seasons. There is little doubt in my mind that this trend will continue going forward.
Should the Wizards make the type of jump that we believe they are capable of making this season with the additions of Nene, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal they should absolutely contend for one of the eight playoff spots in the East. John Wall said he wanted to be the “savior” of the Washington Wizards…here is your chance John, lead us back to the playoffs where the Wizards belong.