Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 23rd game of the season against the Magic in Orlando are TAI’s John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) and guest Noam Schiller (@noamschiller), who is all over the basketball blogosphere but contributes here today as a writer for the ESPN TrueHoop blog Magic Basketball.
Wizards Starters (3-19):
Shaun Livingston, Jordan Crawford,
Bradley Beal (game-time decision), Martell Webster, Chris Singleton, Earl Barron, Emeka Okafor
Magic Starters (11-13):
Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, (How Could You Be) Mo Harkless, Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Magic over the past week?)
@noamschiller: The Magic have been rolling lately, winning their last three games and four of their last five. After a close loss to Atlanta last week, the Magic destroyed a scorching-hot Golden State team (who just happened to be coming off an overnight stay in Miami … but NBA players wouldn’t party into the night at the expense of a game, would they?), denied the Bobcats’ Kemba-induced rally, and rallied themselves from 15 down against the Wolves, setting up this epic Glen Davis interview.
The nice thing is that the Magic are winning games different ways. In the Golden State game, they got a great push from their bench and pretty much ended the game early in the second quarter. Against the Bobcats, the Magic leveraged great ball movement early on to take the lead, dozed off, and out-executed the Bobcats in crunch time (not saying much). And against Minny, the team looked dead in the water before Glen Davis took over with an almost perfect second half.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@noamschiller: Andrew Nicholson is a bundle of joy with maple syrup. His offensive game is incredibly polished for a rookie—he’s good off the catch and in the post, he makes swift decisions, and is money with the left side mid-range jumper. He’s old for a rookie at 23, and while that means he may have less room to develop long-term, it shows in how little mistakes he makes and how confident he is in his offensive game. The Magic’s frontcourt is fairly crowded, but Nicholson has been gradually earning more minutes and has been a pleasure to watch, especially in contrast with Big Baby’s lumbering, chucktastic, iso-laden ways.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
@noamschiller: The battle for Washington’s missed shots. Both the Magic and the Wizards have been horrendous offensively (28th and 30th in offensive efficiency, respectively), but the Magic are riding the league’s sixth-best defensive rebounding rate to rank sixth in the league defensively. Nikola Vucevic has sustained his strong rookie season on the defensive boards, Glen Davis has improved immensely to the point where he may no longer be a liability in this regard, and rookie Moe Harkless has been a revelation on the boards for a small forward. No team in the league is having more trouble making shots than the Wizards right now—if Orlando takes away those second chances, I’m not sure how the Wiz put enough points on the board to stay in this.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@JohnCTownsend: I’m looking past the painted area and into the great beyond—the 3-point line. That’s where this game will likely be won or lost. The Magic are 11-4 when they make at least five 3-pointers in a game and are 0-9 when they make four or less. The Wizards this season give up an average of 7.3 made 3s per game to opponents (on 37.9% shooting in the first half, 31.2% in the second). When the Wiz are on the road, like they are tonight, they surrender an average of eight made 3-pointers. So, expect the Wizards to fall behind early again (they’re minus-11.5 in plus/minus in the first half), fight back, but fall short. Isn’t that how it always go?
The Wizards are 7.5-point dogs. The over/under is 187.5 points (via USA Today).
@noamschiller: I don’t think Orlando is as good as their record, but the team’s spirits are incredibly high, and they’re defending too well for a Washington offense that has been absolutely brutal. Orlando 94, Washington 81.
@JohnCTownsend: Washington is 1-10 on the road. A record like that doesn’t just happen by accident. It happens because the team keeps making the same mistakes, or simply too many, time after time. I don’t think Lawler’s Law will come into play tonight, but Murphy’s Law certainly will: if anything can go wrong for these Wizards, it will. The Magic pick up their fourth straight win, 98-90.
[stats source: NBA.com/stats]