Opening Statements: Wizards at Magic, Game 79
Tonight the Wizards are going for their fifth sweep of a team on the season. Having already beaten the Brooklyn Nets 3-0, the L.A. Lakers 2-0, the New Orleans Pelicans 2-0, and the New York Knicks 3-0, a win in Orlando would give Washington the series, 4-0. They have faced the Hawks (3-1), Bobcats (1-3), Cavaliers (2-2), Pistons (2-2), 76ers (3-1), and Raptors (1-3) four times each already this year, and remaining games versus Orlando (3-0), Milwaukee (2-1), Miami (1-2), and Boston (2-1) will represent the fourth and final meeting with each of those teams. Conversely, Washington has been swept by the Mavericks (0-2), Nuggets (0-2), Clippers (0-2), Grizzles (0-2), and Spurs (0-2) this season.
The Wizards have beaten the Magic twice in the District of Columbia by a combined 27 points. On Dec. 2, 2013, Washington pulled to a much-ballyhooed .500 (9-9) with an 18-point win. The starters
got some much-needed rest, Chris Singleton dunked in a basketball game, Jan Vesely and Eric Maynor played but were still terrible, Victor Oladipo had that juice, and Nene birthed a baby boy on the court and immediately named him Glen Davis. The joys of .500 bee-ball.
The Magic returned to the District on Feb. 25. This time the Wizards entered with an even 28-28 record and won to climb above .500 for the second time over the season (against Portland at home was the first). By this time, the Wizards bench wasn’t so much a concern, as a couple components of AARP Unit had arrived—new acquisition Andre Miller and returned-from-knee-injury Al Harrington; Drew Gooden had not yet joined the team. Orlando put up a good fight in only losing by nine points—part of it was that the Magic played like a more cohesive team than reflected by their record; the other part was disinterested Wizards defense. But, John Wall did his All-Star thing (27 points, seven assists, one turnover), and Miller (+12) and Harrington (+8) fielded positive plus/minuses off the bench.
The third meeting: Overtime in Orlando. On March 14, the Wizards beat the Magic on their home court for the first time since Feb. 2, 2010 (and for the first time in the Amway Center that was built by garages full of useless ‘life’ products sold via multi-level marketing pressure on family members and friends, i.e., swell). You might remember this as the game where John Wall exchanged words with referee Joey Crawford. Or you could remember this game because Bradley Beal went down on the floor, apparently with a significant injury, and actually wept, putting a deep fear into Wizards Nation and all boys who cry wolf. Beal was even carried to the locker room by teammates but was ultimately just fine and would go on the play in the very next game on the very next day. Go figure. It was an ugly victory but it was a necessary victory, providing a bounty of glimpses into the potential of Washington’s backcourt (that’s at times taken a step back via performances such as the most recent one versus the Bobcats).
Anywho … a much-needed win is available for interested parties, and only this question of Wizards interest can usurp their actual ability to win. Washington could easily alleviate #SoWizards panic by winning their last four games while Charlotte loses just one to take the 6 seed back. To note: Nikola Vucevic is slated to be out tonight for Orlando, and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker is experiencing a groin issue. Nonetheless, Washington could certainly keep flubbing and Charlotte could keep their momentum, leading Ted Leonsis to fire up his jet to Miami for a first-round matchup, which might be good for his pocket book, but would be a terrible failure for his team when things like reality
are considered. If Washington wins tonight, they would be given a 47 percent chance to reacquire the 6 seed, but if they lose, those chances would drop to 20 percent.
Worth noting: the top records in the Eastern Conference since the All-Star break go like this: Chicago (19-7), Brooklyn (19-8), Toronto (18-8), Charlotte (17-8), Miami (16-11), Washington (15-11), Indiana (14-13), New York (13-13), Cleveland (12-14), and Atlanta (10-17).
For this evening’s game we won’t be doing a Q&A with some blogger. Instead, we will take a quick look at some Wizards clutch stats. Keep reading…
Teams: Wizards at Magic
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Amway Center, Orlando, FL
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Spread: Wizards favored by 7 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
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The default definition of “clutch” time on NBA.com is within the last five minutes and ahead or behind by five points. John Wall has attempted the second-most shots in the NBA (119) after Kevin Durant (122). Fifteen NBA players have attempted 80 or more shots during this window and their stats are broken down in the chart below (and thus, yes, players on better teams not involved in so many close games aren’t necessarily featured). The green, yellow, and red highlighting simply signifies the top five, middle five, and bottom five for each category in relation to the list of 15.
You’ll notice off the bat that neither Wall nor Beal are particularly good in the clutch. But at least both seem to be better than or on par with Carmelo Anthony, Kemba Walker, and DeMar DeRozan. Not saying much, but yea. Overall as a team during the outlined window, the Wizards have the 20th-best (or 11th-worst) winning percentage in the clutch (.444); the San Antonio Spurs top the list at .750. Also worth mentioning that the Wizards have played more minutes during this window (last five minutes, and ahead or behind by five) than anyone else in the NBA (241 minutes), while the Spurs have played the least amount of minutes (105). So, at least the Wizards are gathering experience in close games, even if they are not exactly good at succeeding. The Raptors are second in minutes (207) and have a .529 winning percentage, and the Bobcats are fourth in minutes (191) with a .523 winning percentage. Coaching and the #WittmanFace certainly play a big factor in these results.
And while it’s certainly understandable that the ball be in Wall or Beal’s hands toward the end of games, Marcin Gortat is actually the most clutch Wizard, going 26-for-44 from the field (59.1%) during discussed window. Other Wizards are not so clutch: Nene (19-47, 40.4%), Martell Webster (9-24, 37.5%), and Trevor Ariza (16-47, 34.0%). Yes, interior defense tightens during games, leaving more opportunity on the perimeter, but it’s also clear that Randy Wittman isn’t trying to use Gortat enough while Wall and Beal have been given more freedom to play hero ball and shot-jack.
The kids will be alright, we hope. But until then, sometimes they can just be a pain-in-the-ass to deal with. (Note: this is not to diminish how generally awesome Wall’s improvement has been this season, nor the nice glimpses Beal has shown, even if he has overall been a bit disappointing.)
HOWEVER… If we shift the definition of clutch to the last two minutes and behind ahead or behind by three points, we get 13 NBA players who have attempted 30 or more shots during this window (chart, sheet 2). And in this picture, Wall is not so comparatively bad—his eFG% of 37.2 percent actually ranks fifth best.
- Damian Lillard is awesome in the clutch.
- High-volume bigs like Al Jefferson and LaMarcus Aldridge are pretty bad in the clutch.
- Dirk’s numbers really change between the five minute, five point window and the two minute, three point window.
- Kyrie Irving continues to be overrated (as does the vaunted ‘improvement’ of Monta Ellis this year).
- You never want to go to war with Carmelo Anthony. Never.