D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards vs Cavaliers, Game 9
The Cleveland Cavaliers are back in town. And, hey, at least they’re not Detroit, who have a 9-2 record against the Wizards in the John Wall era! Cleveland is 6-4, including three straight wins in the last three meetings. To preview tonight’s action, I caught up with Kevin Hetrick (@hetrick46), the associate editor at Cavs: The Blog. Do note that Kevin sent me his responses on Thursday … last night’s 80-86 loss to the Bobcats did not help his disposition.
Teams: Wizards vs. Cavaliers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Wizards favored by 8 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
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Q #1: The Cavs have the second worst point differential in the NBA right now (-8.4) and are winless on the road. What’s going on with Kyrie & Co.?
@hetrick46: The season is really early, so I’ll make excuses instead of providing a real answer. The team has played six of nine games on the road, and the combined record of their opponents is 41-31. They’ve also played a relatively congested schedule, with only the Lakers playing more games. Finally, they’re young and learning new offensive and defensive systems from a new coach. [Ed. note: Mike Brown is back in Cleveland after a year in L.A. and a year away from basketball.] It has definitely been ugly so far, but there is a lot of time for things to turnaround. Ask me this question again after the game with Washington. And hey, what’s going on with John Wall and Co.? Two wins?
Q #2: The Wizards are allowing opponents to shoot 67.7% inside 5 feet, the highest percentage in the NBA. Tristan Thompson can’t figure out if he’s right-handed or left-handed, Anderson Varejao is … well, Varejao, and Andrew Bynum has been in and out of the lineup. Do the Cavs have anyone who can bring the pain in the paint?
@hetrick46: Kyrie Irving can bring the pain in the paint. Have you seen the contorting, reverse layups with English that he makes? When he’s in the mood to attack, Dion Waiters can get the ball to the hoop, too. Tristan and Andy will clean up the boards when they miss. Maybe the Wizards 22nd ranked defense is just what the Cavs need to kickstart their offense. (Please let the Wizards defense be what the Cavs need to kickstart their offense…)
Q #3: Anthony Bennett. Feeling any buyer’s remorse so far?
@hetrick46: After nine games, not exactly buyer’s remorse. The problem with Anthony Bennett is that he is fat. While nursing his shoulder injury this summer, apparently no one introduced him to an exercise bike. In college, he was lauded for his explosiveness around the rim; on Wednesday, he missed an open dunk off of two feet. The Cavs need to forget about his play for six weeks and make him spend all day doing squats, or hitting the rowing machine … whatever NBA players do in order to not be fat while they otherwise sit on the bench.
Q #4: How do the Wizards protect their home turf and come away with a win?
@JohnCTownsend: A renewed commitment to defense would be nice to see… The Wizards are currently fielding a defense that allows opponents to shoot 48.8 percent from the field, the best opponent field goal percentage in the NBA and truly the worst news for Wizards fans. The Wiz also give up an average of 104.8 points per game, fourth-worst in the league. What’s interesting is that the three teams that give up more points per game than the Wizards—the Houston Rockets, the L.A. Clippers and the Philadelphia 76ers—have .500 records or better.
They’re all out of whack on offense, too, shooting 43.2 percent from the field (22nd), averaging just 21.6 free throw attempts per game (18th), and making a league-worst 68.8 percent of those attempts.
My keys to the game? Force the Cavs to take midrange jumpers (that shouldn’t be hard, they love them), crash the glass, and be a lot smarter with offensive possessions (the Wiz do average 98.4 possessions per game, top 12). That starts with less shucking and chucking and more scoring in the painted area. Only the Knicks have scored fewer points in the paint this season.