Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pistons, Game 8 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pistons, Game 8

Updated: November 12, 2014

Washington Wizards vs Detroit Pistons - Dec. 21, 2012

The Motor City boys are in the capital city tonight. Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe are getting revved up to drive circles around John Wall, Paul Pierce and Marcin Gortat. It’s the first of three meetings between the two teams this season.

A win for the home team would lift them to 6-2 for the first time since 1975-76, back when Phil Chenier was leading the Bullets in points per game. But a win won’t come easy. Detroit has won four of the last five games in the Verizon Center … and 14 of the last 18 against the Wizards.

Josh Smith is poised to have a big game, having averaged 15.3 points per contest against the Wiz last season, and coming off a 19-point, 11-rebound outing in Chicago (a loss). But John Wall will likely answer early and often. In his last two meetings with the Pistons, he’s scored 63 points on 38 shots.

What follows is your #WizPistons preview, direct from the Gmail inboxes of Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks) and yours truly.

Teams: Wizards vs Raptors
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WTEM-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards favored by 6 points.

Sponsored Ad:

Wizards tickets … anyone?

Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.

November 12, 1:35 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

Afternoon, chap. Washington’s Wizards play the Detroit Pistons tonight—a powerful team on paper, but one that’s run like a lemon over the past five seasons. That doesn’t mean the Wizards have had their way, no … they’ve won just two of the last six games against the Pistons.

But here’s a fun and wonderful fact: The Detroit Pistons rank 29th in points per game (91.9) and, like the Knicks, have yet to score 100 points in a single contest this season.

Are you feeling as confident about tonight’s game, and result (a Wiz win), as I am?

November 12, 2:09 p.m.

Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks):

No, I guess I’m not. I don’t think that the Pistons are a good team (they’re not) but there’s a reason that, as bad as they’ve been, they’ve succeeded against the Wizards. I was at the Wizards mid-January home loss against the Pistons last year. Talking to then-head coach Maurice Cheeks before the game, you couldn’t have painted a more appropriate caricature of the “SAD NBA HEAD COACH.”

He was morose, almost too candid about how poorly the Pistons had been playing (they’d just been drubbed 110-89 in Detroit by the Utah Jazz, one of the worst teams in the league last year). And then, despite that pall of despair that had settled around Cheeks, who was fired just three weeks later, the Pistons beat the Wizards 104-98.

Washington had everything to gain in that game … it would have been the first time the team had been over .500 all season. But Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe destroyed Marcin Gortat and Nene on the boards, role players like Rodney Stuckey and Kyle Singler blew up, and the Pistons won despite John Wall’s 34 points.

The Wizards don’t need to win the rebounding category to win the game. In fact, it seems unlikely they will. The Pistons are third in the NBA in rebounds per game, while the Wizards are just 19th, despite going with a “traditional” big man duo like Nene and Gortat.

So what DO the Wizards need to do to make sure they counteract Detroit’s advantage on the glass?

November 12, 2:59 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

Rodney Stuckey. Shudder. That guy either hates the Wizards, or loves playing against them—perhaps both. He’s posted a .536 TS% in 21 games against Washington, a better mark than he’s put up against 25 other NBA teams. Even the Washington Post‘s Michael Lee has described him as a “career Wizard-killer.” He’s in Indiana now (and injured), which is a good news for the home team.

But you asked abound the battle of the boards, not perimeter defense—another glaring weakness for Washington. The Wiz have one player ranked in the top 50 in REB% (the percentage of total rebounds a player obtains while on the court). Can you guess who that is?

If you said “Kris Humphries,” you’re today’s winner. He comes in at 46th with a REB% of 16.8. If you’re surprised, you shouldn’t be. He’s a strong rebounder, who has never recorded a REB% lower than 14.0 (his rookie season). He’s the only Wizard averaging double-digit rebounds per 36.

Marcin Gortat, who has two double-doubles this season, ranks 70th at 14.9. Drew Gooden is 98th at 13.0, Kevin Seraphin is 149th at 10.9, and Il Divo, Nene, falls in line at 160th with a REB% of 10.5. That’s just not good enough. I’d like to see more effort, focus and physicality from every one of those frontcourt players, but especially from Nene, who’s are getting out-rebounded by softies like Ish Smith, Ricky Rubio, Tyreke Evans, and James Harden.

Tonight might be the night Randy Wittman frees DeJuan Blair, who, as we’ve covered, is a dominant rebounder. He’s never finished with a REB% under 15.6.

Stan Van Gundy would, if he were coaching the Wizards. But he’s on the opposite sideline.

Both coaches signed multi-year deals this summer. Who would you rather have holding the clipboard and developing young talent. And do you think this game will come down to a possession or two?

November 12, 3:42 p.m.

Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks):

Both coaches are great defensively. Stan Van Gundy doesn’t get enough credit for the work he did with those Orlando teams. He turned a team full of minus defenders and Dwight Howard into one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Wittman also deserves credit for his work with Washington’s defense. He’s convinced his team, probably through brute force taxonomy, that defensive effort is a separate, more impactful species than offensive ingenuity. In losses, the Wizards will almost always cite poor defense as a bigger contributor than anything on the offensive end of the floor. Wizards players believe, as Wittman does, that good defense will always keep you in a game. As a result, you’ve seen the Wizards, in recent years laden with mostly minus defenders (Trevor Ariza and Nene are the exceptions) and young players, be in the NBA’s top 10 defensively.

It’s hard to say which coach would have a bigger impact on John Wall and Bradley Beal’s defense, but both are good candidates. All things being equal on that end (and without giving the guy GM power), I’d have to go with Stan Van Gundy overall, obnoxious as he can be. Here’s why:

Van Gundy knows how to harness the power of the 3-point shot, and his offenses have reflected that. Meanwhile, last year’s Wizards were tied for fourth overall in 3-point percentage (38%), but just 19th overall in 3-point attempts. That would never have happened on one of Van Gundy’s consistent, 50-win Orlando teams. In 2009 (the year the Magic lost in the NBA Finals), the Magic were sixth overall in 3-point percentage (38.1%), and took advantage of that strength, taking the second-most 3-pointers per game (26.2). And that’s what coaches should do: take advantage of their team’s strengths, not force focus on weaknesses (see Wall and Beal “long two” attempts last year as a form of development). Over the course of a season, that doubling down on strengths results in more points, and more wins. And for young players, a better sense of how they’ll be successful in the league.

None of this is to say that Wall and Beal wouldn’t be better players with a competent 15-19 foot jump shot. They would be, and should focus on developing those skills. But the Wizards, now competing for playoff positioning, no longer have the luxury of developing their talent in-game.

Will this game come down to the final possession or two? Probably. You always hope for a blowout, but even a blowout can burn you (see Washington’s last game, a blowout-turned-nailbiter against the Pacers on Saturday).

Where do you see the Wizards having the matchup advantage tonight? And will Garrett Temple’s handcrafted feathers coast once more over the too-sunny ocean of his own reflection that he’s attempting to escape?

November 12, 4:29 p.m.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend):

John Wall & Co. are at their best when they have 90-plus feet of hardwood in front of them. They average 12.7 fast break points per game (14th), but I fully expect them to score 15 or more in transition by the time they cross the finish line tonight. While both teams know how to play halfcourt defense, the Wizards (ranked 6th in Opponent’s Turnover Rate) are able to force teams into more turnovers than the Pistons (ranked 29th). That’s a big plus, and often the difference, in close games like the one you’re expecting.

As for Temple, he may have been “Spirited Away” in the first few games of the season, but he’s still very much human—like young Chihiro. The good news is that he knows his limitations in a league carried by stars. Temple is not Bradley Beal, nor Glen Rice (ceiling!), but he doesn’t have to be. He knows where Wall likes to find shooters.

Temple averages 4.9 catch-and-shoot attempts per game (47.1%). Just over half of those attempts are 3s (46.7%), and they often come from the corners where he’s sinking them at a 55 percent clip. Taking open shots is working for him. Can you believe it? He should be able to keep it up. As the very un-wicked witch Zeniba says, “Once you do something, you never forget. Even if you can’t remember.”

Play us off, Keyboard Cat. Give us a final score prediction.

November 12, 4:43 p.m.

Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks):

How dare you remind me of one of the best Wizards-related photo creations of all time?

Final score: Wizards 98, Pistons 94. But gravity will distort time in the fourth quarter, making the final few possessions feel like the year you had braces.


John Converse Townsend on EmailJohn Converse Townsend on FacebookJohn Converse Townsend on InstagramJohn Converse Townsend on Twitter
John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.