[The Wiz Kids celebrate a home win over Philly last season. - photo: A. McGinnis]
Including two preseason contests, the Washington Wizards have already faced the Philadelphia 76ers four times this season (out of 18 total games, including preseason). Tonight represents the fifth meeting, and at that, the Wizards are searching for their first road win in about 300 days (March 13, 2011 against the Jazz in Utah was the last time). You know the drill… three questions, three answers… Tonight we have Jordan Sams from the SB Nation Sixer blog Liberty Ballers, along with TAI’s John Converse Townsend and Kyle Weidie. Away we go…
#1) In two meetings against the Sixers so far, John Wall has averaged 13 points, 6.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 6.5 turnovers. His current turnaround, however, started with a great second half in that Jan. 14 Saturday night contest — in the four games since that Sixers matchup, Wall has averaged 25.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 3.5 turnovers. Philly’s own Sweet Lou (Williams) has averaged 21.5 points in 25.4 minutes off the bench against Washington this season. Which player is more likely to get over 25 points tonight and why?
SAMS: John Wall. While I have tremendous respect for Jrue Holiday’s man-to-man defense, but the Sixers will be without both of their centers – Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic – for tonight’s game. Elton Brand is also a listed as a game-time decision with stomach problems. The Sixers are already a weak team in terms of interior D, so missing two, possibly three of their best interior defenders could result in a layup drill for Wall.
TOWNSEND: Lou Williams. With a frontcourt in disarray, Philadelphia will probably lean on its backcourt tonight. Williams, the 76ers leading scorer this season (15.5 points per game) despite playing less than 25 minutes per game, has scored 20-plus points in three of his previous six games against the Wizards.
WEIDIE: I have a feeling that both players will likely score over 25 points tonight. Lou Williams always seems to kill the Wizards (you’d think Washington would realize this)… and maybe they will. And this is why I’m going to choose John Wall. He will score more than Williams and will take pride in trying to stop him defensively if they match up.
#2) Spencer Hawes is having a great season, when he’s able to play — he missed the last three games, a loss against Denver at home, a blowout of Atlanta in Philly, and a 21 point loss to the Heat in Miami, due to Achilles and back issues. Who’s more important to the Sixers, him or Elton Brand? [NOTE: Hawes out tonight vs. Washington.]
SAMS: Spencer Hawes. Elton can be a beast at times with his automatic mid-range jumper and occasional post defense, but Spencer Hawes makes the entire team better, while Elton is more of an individual performer. Hawes’ passing in the half court is a beauty to watch and creates easy shots for the entire team. Hawes is also better on the defensive glass.
TOWNSEND: I’ll go Spencer Hawes, the fifth-year center currently leading the Sixers in rebounds (8.8) and blocks (1.7) per game. Hawes also is currently a top-five NBA center, according to ESPN basketball genius John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER). With Elton Brand’s production continuing to roll down the other side of the hill, and with little hope of catching it, I’ll take the young guy with upside.
WEIDIE: Hawes is more important. Unfortunately for Philly, having signed him to the qualifying offer in December, Hawes will be an unrestricted free-agent next summer. Brand is set to make $18 million in 2012-13, and while it will be important for Philly to find a bull to replace Brand on the blocks (if they don’t resign the 33-year old to be to something reasonable after that), Hawes represents the future for Philly down low. They better be brotherly toward him.
#3) The Washington Wizards will get their first win against the Sixers (and their first road win of the season) tonight IF…
SAMS: If they don’t settle for long two pointers and attack the basket. The Sixers allow the seventh most points in the paint because of their soft interior. Without Hawes and Vuecvic, the soft just got softer. However, the Sixers are second in the league in forcing long twos (the most inefficient shot in basketball) and pretty good at keeping teams off the line, so it would be in the Wizards’ best interest to attack the rim for the full 48.
TOWNSEND: …If Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes and rookie Nikola Vucevic are sidelined with injury or infection. And they are! The Sixers are expected to roll out a front court featuring Andres Nocioni, Tony Battie or both, which bodes well for a Wizards team that’s been looking for a way to win games consistently for the better part of three years now.
WEIDIE: …If Washington hits their FREE-THROWS! The Wizards aren’t the worst free-throw shooting team in the NBA, but being tied for 23rd ”best” with a .726 percentage can get them in a lot of trouble in close games, especially with youth in consideration. (Although, John Wall was pretty clutch versus Oklahoma City… can’t say the same for JaVale McGee.) The Wizards were 13-20 and 11-17 from the charity stripe respectively in their contests versus Philadelphia this season (.649). If Washington attempts more than 25 free-throws and makes 80-percent of them, they will get their first road win of the season.