Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 26th game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the District are TAI’s Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) and guest Amin Vafa (@AminNBA), who is all over the interwebs (including Bullets Forever and Hardwood Paroxysm) but contributes here today as a writer for SB Nation Cleveland.
Wizards Starters (3-22):
Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
Note: Crawford is not starting per violation of a team rule.
Cavaliers Starters (6-23):
Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Cavaliers over the past week?)
@AminNBA: The Cavs have had a pretty restful week. Their last game was on Saturday, and they managed to pull out a win against Milwaukee. Cleveland has been pretty bad this season, but that’s mostly due to a thin rotation and a few injuries here and there. Aside from the much-needed win against the Bucks (without Varejao, mind you), the Cavs spent Christmas cutting Donald Sloan and picking up Shaun Livingston after the Wizards cut him and Earl Barron for Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple. Merry Christmas, I guess.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@AminNBA: Varejao’s out again tonight with a bruised right knee, so we’ll miss out on some Brazil-on-Brazil action in the paint. But that means the Wiz will see more of Tristan Thompson, who has stepped up in a big way with Varejao on the sideline, averaging 13 and 13 in these past three games. All of this is assuming the Wizards are not sleeping on Kyrie Irving, who will score a bajillion points this evening.
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.)
@AminNBA: I think tonight’s most important matchup is going to be Waiters versus Beal again. Waiters won the first matchup on opening night, but since then, Beal has gotten more confident while Waiters has tapered off a bit. Both are experiencing a traditional rookie year on a losing team (being asked to do too much, up and down performances from night to night, awkward adjustment from being The Man in college to being A Boy in the NBA), but tonight will be a good litmus test of their two progressions so far this season.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@Truth_About_It: The only stat that really separates these teams over the past eight games (since Kyrie Irving returned from injury) is shooting. The Wizards have fielded an eFG% of 41.8 over the past eight while Cleveland has an eFG% of 47.1. Thus, the Offensive Rating (OffRtg — points scored per 100 possessions) for the Cavs is 97.1 over that span of games while Washington’s OffRtg is 87.8. Otherwise, the Wizards have played slightly better defense, have rebounded the ball a little bit better, and foul slightly less than tonight’s opponent. After losing the second of two games to the Pistons, rookie Bradley Beal said:
“It’s frustrating because you know that you’re capable of making those shots, and then you see other team knocking down 3s after 3s after 3s, and then you’re like, ‘Dang, why can’t we make any?’ But sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in. You just have to keep working. You just have to keep shooting the ball. Stay confident.”
Confidence is a funny thing, and it can be contagious, good or bad. Confidence can also last the span of several games, or just portions of a single game. Right now, all the Wizards are looking for is one game. Or even one quarter, the fourth quarter. And while normally I would disregard any game in which the Wizards are coming off significant rest, I have a feeling that tonight, with the relaxation of a holiday with friends and family behind them, the rims will look a little bit bigger for D.C.’s hapless pro basketball team.
The Wizards are 1-point dogs. The over/under is 188.5 points (via USA Today).
@AminNBA: Jordan Crawford might have another triple-double, but the Cavs take it because Kyrie Irving can close. However, I also think Bradley Beal will score 20-plus points tonight, unless Cleveland has Alonzo Gee guarding him. Otherwise, Cleveland wins, 95-89.
@Truth_About_It: A couple days off hopefully means that the Wizards have separated themselves from the sour taste of losing and have become more focused on the fact that basketball is the sport that they love. And, instead of being all “cancerous,” via NBA.com’s David Aldridge, they will be cohesive, welcoming back a Shelvin Mack already familiar with Randy Wittman’s offense. Wizards 95, Cavaliers 93.
[stats source: NBA.com/stats]