Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 53rd game of the season at home against the Denver Nuggets are TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and guest Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Ciafrone) who writes about the Nuggets for Roundball Mining Company, an ESPN TrueHoop Network blog.
Wizards Starters (15-37):
John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene, Emeka Okafor
Nuggets Starters (31-15):
Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Nuggets over the past week?)
@Matt_Ciafrone: This week the Nuggets continued their winning ways at home by dispatching the Celtics 97-90 on Tuesday. As has been the norm in February, Denver was led by the combination of Ty Lawson, who started the game 6-for-6 from the field and finished with 26 points, six rebounds, six assists and no turnovers, and Danilo Gallinari, who finished with 26 points, five assists and five rebounds. Now the Nuggets get ready to start a mini two-game Eastern Conference road trip in Washington and look to do something they haven’t done well all year—win on the road.
Editor’s Note: The Nuggets stood pat at yesterday’s NBA trade deadline, and Nuggets VP of Basketball Operations, Masai Ujiri, explains why in this interview.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@Matt_Ciafrone: Kenneth Faried. With the way Lawson and Gallinari have played lately the majority of the focus has rightfully been on them. Add in a big established name in Andre Iguodala and it is easy to forget about Faried and what he brings to the Nuggets. The Manimal’s rebounding and energy is absolutely vital to the Nuggets success and one of the brighter things happening in Nuggets Land are the flashes of lock-down defense that Faried is starting to show. The Wizards better know where he is every time a shot goes up Friday night, or they will be in for a long night of multiple possessions on the defensive end or staring at Faried hanging from the rim.
Editor’s note: Michael Pina (@MichaelVPina) who writes for TrueHoop, wrote an excellent piece on Kenneth Faried for The Classical
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.)
@Matt_Ciafrone: The pace of the game. The Nuggets want to play the game extremely fast, they rank second in the league in pace factor at 97.4 possessions per game, and the Wizards will have to slow them down if they hope to win the game. In the half court the Nuggets offense can tend to bog down, as they lack any real knockdown shooter so teams can pack the paint against them. But if Denver can get out into the open floor for an easy 15 or 20 points a game things become much easier for them. If Washington can slow the game down a bit and make the Nuggets beat them in the half court they will have a chance to win, especially with how good they are on the defensive side of the ball.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@rashad20: After trading Jordan Crawford to the Celtics for Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins, Ernie Grunfeld met with the media to discuss his thought process surrounding the trade, and he also made an observation about the character of his current roster:
We have a very positive culture and we’re going to continue build on that, with good character guys and the culture is a good, workmanlike culture with good people that are going to support one another and play the game the right way and we want our players to get accustomed to that and the way we want to operate.
If Grunfeld had uttered those words after last month’s Nuggets-Wizards game, he would have been 100 percent accurate. In that game, the Wizards bench scored 56 points, Wall had 14 points and 12 assists, Bradley Beal had 23 points, and the Wizards beat the Nuggets on the break for a 112-108 victory. But unfortunately for Grunfeld, the Wizards’ effort against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night was not workmanlike, nor supportive, nor indicative of a team playing the game the right way. Wall shot 1-for-12, Nene had just seven points and three rebounds in 36 minutes of play, and Bradley Beal—who scored 25 points and carried the Wizards the entire night—openly questioned the Wizards effort by saying to no one in particular, “Why the f**k are we giving up?”
Tonight against the Nuggets, win or lose, the Wizards have to give an acceptable level of effort. They have to validate Ernie Grunfeld’s words, they have to justify the trade of Jordan Crawford (who was not buying into the team concept), and frankly, they are running out of excuses for why they’ve yet to turn the corner. The Wizards beat the playoff-bound Nuggets (currently fifth in the Western Conference) in Denver last month, so beating them at home is a realistic goal.
JAVALE MCGEE UPDATE
@rashad20: When JaVale was traded to the Nuggets last March, he was criticized for being inconsistent as a member of the Washington Wizards. One game he’d play under control, the next he’d make boneheaded plays and find himself on the bench. He played well enough to earn a four-year, $44 million salary, but he’s also played badly enough to provoke George Karl to make the following statement:
“He’s got to understand that lazy and crazy isn’t going to make it work. We want solid and we want fundamental, and we want spectacular but only when it happens, not forcing the action where sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t.”
For the season, McGee is averaging 9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, 18 minutes per game, and his PER is 21.2—fourth among NBA centers. Nene, the man who replaced JaVale, is averaging 12.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, 26.8 minute a game with a PER of 18.07—21st among centers. As for JaVale’s emotions about returning to D.C.? Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post tweeted this:
Walked off DC court w JaVale. Tried to ask him about emotions returning here. “Is this an interview? No comment.”
— Benjamin Hochman (@nuggetsnews) February 22, 2013
The Spread: The Wizards are 3.5 point underdogs to the Nuggets; the over/under is 200 points (via USA Today).
@Matt_Ciafrone: Denver 106, Washington 100. Last time these two teams played the Wizards knocked off the Nuggets in Denver in a thrilling game. Since then Lawson has played incredibly well and the team’s defense has gotten better. I tend to think the Nuggets won’t give up multiple 30-point quarters again, and Lawson will take them home down the stretch. But it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if the Nuggets dropped the game, either; they are so bad on the road that truly anything can happen, especially against a team so good on the defensive end of the floor.
@rashad20: I suspect everyone on the Wizards will match Bradley Beal’s effort tonight, but between the Nuggets jockeying for playoff position and the reminder George Karl will give his team about January’s game, I expect Denver to play well in a close victory. Denver 107, Washington 103.