The Big Picture
As a wrote late last week, the Wizards are in critical condition right now. Unfortunately it’s only gotten worse for what was supposed to be one of the top teams in the east. Since last we spoke here on Wiz Biz, the Wizards have posted a 1-3 record against teams with a combined record of 16-22. It’s gotten so bad that ESPN’s Zach Lowe, a normally very pro Wizards writer, wrote his big column this week on how bad things have gotten in Chinatown.
Right now the Wizards are, by some miracle, only 2.5 games out of the playoffs in the very mediocre east. This ain’t over yet, but these next five game are absolutely critical to staying within striking distance, as well as building some confidence and unity as a team. For those who read my article on the Wizards from last week, you can skip ahead to the game recaps. For everyone else, I’ll give you the cliff notes.
The Wizards next five opponents all have losing records and should be winnable games. By my estimation we need to go 4-1 at least in order to stay in playoffs striking distance. Unfortunately, the plan has already gone off the rails a little.
L @ MEM 107-95 (10/30)
Oh my gosh the turnovers in this one. There were 37 (!!) turnovers in this game between both teams, for a while it seemed like no one wanted to win this game. That is until the 3rd quarter, when it became clear the Grizzlies did. The Wizards were only losing by a single point at halftime, but Memphis opened the half with a 18-1 run WITH THE STARTERS ON THE FLOOR. Yes, the vaunted Wizards starters all posted negative +/- numbers, overall the Grizzlies were a better coached bunch who wanted it more. I’m getting tired of thinking that with this team.
Can’t finish talking about this one without mentioning the ex-wizard day the Grizzlies had. Ex-Wizard guards Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack both turned in some of their best performances of the season as Temple scored 20 points and grabbed seven boards. Mack also added 14 points of his own while notching a season high eight assists. If I had to pick a Wizards bright spot I would say that Kelly Oubre added 16 points, his continued development is possibly the lone bright spot of this season.
L VS OKC 134-111 (11/2)
This was it, Dwight Howard’s debut. Superman was going to save the Wizards from the collapsing building that the 2018-2019 season had become. Obviously things didn’t turn out that way.
Don’t get me wrong, Dwight Howard was good. Howard posted 20 points in his Bullets debut. He dunked, shot the bank shot, and tallied 15 points in the first quarter. Wall and Beal also did ok, they combined for 46 points and 13 assists…and 12 turnovers. The defense in this one though was horrendous. I’ll make it simple, the Thunder scored 79 points before halftime, yikes.
I’ve heard several pundits compare the Thunder and Wizards. They often compare Wall to Westbrook and Beal to George, pointing out that both clubs are salary cap shot and must rely on trades and MLE appeal to improve. I tend to favor that comparison expect for one major difference, Russell Westbrook is a top five player in the league, and John Wall isn’t. Russ controls the game with his athleticism, the Thunder feed off of his fire and passion for the game, as well his passion for Oklahoma City. I have very rarely felt that sort of lead by example attitude from John Wall. The difference was stark in the 44-20 second quarter which prompted the boo birds to come out at Capital One Arena for the first time in at least five years.
W VS NYK 108-95 (11/4)
Time to celebrate, it took four tries but the Wizards finally got a home win!!! I’m not even joking, I really thought this was going to be rock bottom, Washington was going to lose to the Porzingis-less Knicks and that would be the end of the season and maybe the Scott Brooks era. This season has been so bleak that I’m overflowing with positives from this one win over one of the worst franchises in sports. So I’ll bullet point them to save time:
- John Wall and Bradley Beal looked like an elite backcourt again!
- The duo combined for 48 points and 53% from the field, they also were both plus players for the first time since the Trail Blazers game.
- Dwight Howard was a dominant force on defense while posting a double-double in points and boards. He led the team in plus/minus with +27
- While the Jeff Green signing went under the radar for the most part this offseason. He has been the best addition to the team so far. Green had 14 points and 9 rebounds in this one.
Yeah, there were negatives in this one, but let’s that go for today. After all, wins have been hard to come by so far this season, might as well enjoy this one while we can.
L @ Dal 119-100 (11/6)
Welp, we can’t anymore. Put down the parade floats, we are still a bottom ring team in the NBA. I really wanted this one, two 2-7 teams battling to see who sucked less, and it doesn’t help that the Mavs just lost to Knicks the game before. You know, the team who we just beat. This was another game in what is now a pattern for this Washington team. Wall, Beal, and Porter turned in reasonable offensive performances that should’ve been enough to a keep a team in the game with a decent effort from the supporting cast. Yeah, about that second part. Oh, and the first half defense was horrible.
The Wizards big three accounted for 62% of the Wizards scoring in this game, and it’s not like they were very efficient either. Beal in particular was ice cold in this one (1-9 from three), for those who also read Cap Tip. You know how I mentioned that, while the Capitals have horrible defense the offense is good enough to win a few games? The Wizards are the same thing without an elite offense. There are teams in the NBA, such as the Warriors and Spurs, who don’t always play great D, but have good schemes and enough offense to regularly win games. The Wizards aren’t those teams, they need to play hard on both sides of the ball to win and they aren’t doing that.
A final note- The way I see it, the next five games are of paramount importance. If the Wizards go 4-1 (which I’m beginning to think is unrealistic) than they move up to 6-9 on the reason, right outside the playoffs. If they continue on the current path and go, let’s say 2-3. They drop to 4-11 almost a quarter of the way through the season, might be game over for them. Let’s hope that’s not the case.