Opening Statements: Wizards vs Heat, Game 16 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Heat, Game 16

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Updated: December 1, 2014

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Teams: Wizards vs Heat
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WTEM-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards favored by 4.5 points.


A little over a month ago when the Wizards and Heat opened the season in Miami, both teams had clouds of uncertainty looming over them. The Heat had to figure out how to play without the best player in the NBA (LeBron James), there was the omnipresent concern over Dwyane Wade’s ability to play for sustained stretches, and there was skepticism whether Chris Bosh could revert to the alpha dog or if the Big 3 years had relegated him to a “six-foot ten Sam Perkins,” as former Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan once called him on the Tony Kornheiser radio show.

The Wizards—on paper and based on age—seemed to have a more talented roster than the Heat, but with even more unanswered questions prior to opening night (not including who would step up in the absence of Nene, suspended for the opener along with DeJuan Blair for leaving the bench during a preseason scuffle with the Bulls).  Who would step up in Bradley Beal’s absence? How would the veteran presence of Paul Pierce mesh with the youth of Wall and Beal? Could Otto Porter and Pierce make everyone forget Trevor Ariza’s offseason departure? And would Nene stay healthy long enough for the Wizards to truly maximize their frontcourt depth?

Game 1 of the Wizards-Heat really didn’t answer many questions, because frankly the Wizards barely showed up to play. Washington played well in the first quarter (28-22), then proceeded to give up 31 points in the second quarter and a 35 points in the fourth. Bosh carried Miami for three quarters, and Wade stepped up by scoring 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had five players in double figures (Gooden and Gortat had 18, Wall had 16 points and 11 assists) but there was a dearth of offensive continuity and defensive intensity.

Since the opening game, the Heat and the Wizards have gone in very different directions. The Heat have not fallen off as much as some predicted they would without LeBron, but with Wade in and out of the lineup, they’ve lacked consistency and continuity, and their records stands at 9-7. (Wade played for the first time in seven games last night and scored 27 points—13 in the fourth quarter—in Miami’s 86-79 victory over the Knicks.)

The Wizards won 10 out of 14 games since losing to the Heat, and received contributions from stars Wall, Pierce, Gortat, and the unlikely hero Garrett Temple.  The offense is still finding itself, but the team has stockpiled victories and built confidence over weaker teams.

Unfortunately for the Wizards the one of the main question marks dogging them at the start of the season is now a reality. Nene has missed the last three games with the dreaded plantar fasciitis, and who knows how long it will take him to recover enough to play. His injury has definitely affected the Wizards, as they have lost two out of the last three games. Beal has returned from his injury, but as Randy Wittman said in tonight’s pregame presser, “seven weeks is a long time to be out,” and it’ll take him awhile to play himself into shape.

So tonight’s question in the Heat-Wizards matchup are:  Will the Heat be able to overcome a tough win against the Knicks last night and defeat the Nene-less Wizards?  Or will the presence of Beal in the Wizards’ starting lineup be the difference this time around?

Other pregame observations:

  • Nene will not play, but Dwyane Wade will play his second game in two nights. Said Erik Spoelstra on Wade’s performance against the Knicks last night, specifically his 20 second half points, “Even if he hadn’t done that in the fourth quarter—and that’s what makes him special to rise in the biggest moments—even if he wasn’t feeling great, and he said the 32 minutes felt like 50 minutes but he found a way to dig deep and that’s what great players do. But just his presence on the basketball court defensively to make some plays for us, but also end of possession, when you get stuck you have somebody to throw it to and that’s give your team confidence.
  • Coach Spolestra also had some pointed observations for why preaching defense is so difficult to do.  “Nobody wants to really work at defense that’s just the nature of it. Look all the way to AAU, you’re not going to find any kind of commitment to defense.  Playoff teams, championship level caliber teams commit to the things they don’t want to do, and you have to work at it, you can’t shortcut defense and talking about it doesn’t get your anywhere … that takes time it doesn’t happen overnight.”
  • I asked injured Wizards forward Martell Webster about Coach Spoelstra’s comments, and he had this to say, “Defense is important but I will say certain styles of play like Phoenix and teams that get out and run on the break and shoot within the first eight seconds so they can get another attempt at the basket works in their favor. My question is, if teams win like that and they score big, are they playing good defense? Or is it bad defense? Then you have teams that, as a team or unit collectively, don’t play great defense or have defensive schemes, but you have individuals who are strong and carry their teams. It is definitely a lost art, that’s why the teams who buckle down and make that commitment go far. You can drill and you can talk about it, but if you don’t have the will or the heart to do something you don’t want to do, it’ll never work.  That’s why Coach [Wittman] and the vets preach defense here. We need that to go far.”

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.