Opening Statements: Wizards at Suns, Game 47 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Suns, Game 47

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Updated: January 28, 2015

Wizards at Suns - March 20, 2013

Welcome to the wacky world of 2015, where a drunk, off-duty spy ironically highlights our nation’s security flaws by accidentally landing a drone on the White House lawn and where the Washington Wizards are now the TV darling of the NBA.

Washington, once a terrible primetime TV flop, is now a solid main attraction, marking their third straight ESPN Wednesday night double-header appearance with a late matchup with the Suns in Phoenix.

But why wouldn’t fans be interested in the Wizards? They boast one of the most athletic backcourts in the NBA, a Polish center who moonlights as Street Fighter character Zangief, a rim-rocking Brazilian, and some guy named “The Truth.” This Wizards team is building up such a buzz that it’s making Michael Vick throw out all of his geographical allegiances to claim the Wizards as his “hometown” team, despite having grown up some 180 miles away in Newport News, VA (and sometimes favoring the 76ers, amongst other NBA teams).

After watching the Wizards claw back from a 19-point deficit to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, which would have undoubtedly gone down as the “Jordan Clarkson revenge game” (Clarkson was selected by the Wizards 46th overall in the 2014 draft for the Lakers and traded to them for cash), it is apparent that this team never lacks entertainment value. This Phoenix Suns team isn’t too shabby when it comes to entertainment value, either. The Morris twins are climbing up the list of players that no opponent wants any part of in a back alley, Goran Dragic has been a steady influence coming off of an All-NBA caliber season, and Eric Bledsoe is one of the few point guards in the NBA who is actually comparable to Wall athletically.

The last time these two teams met, Bledsoe gave his former college teammate fits, out-dueling Wall in the plus/minus battle, plus-5 to minus-9, in a 104-92 Suns win. Wall was not the only culprit for the Wizards, however: the entire starting five finished with a negative plus/minus for the game. The real statistics that separate these two teams are pace factor and defensive points per game allowed. The Suns rank second in the NBA only behind the Golden State warriors with an average of 99.2 possessions per 48 minutes, while the Wizards rank in the bottom half of the league with a 95.7 pace factor. Defensively, the Wizards are top 10 in points per game allowed (97.6), while the Suns rank 28th in the league, allowing 105.3 points per contest. Phoenix will try to force the ball up and down the court and dictate the pace of play up, making it very critical for the Wizards backcourt of Wall and Beal to limit turnovers and attack a subpar Phoenix defense.

Here’s to hoping that the Wiz finish strong on a four-game West Coast road trip, and that an entertaining showcase game will influence those NBA fans looking to bandwagon with a good team before Michael Vick takes the prime first class seating. The thing that makes the Wizards so riveting to watch is that they still have a tremendous learning curve. The Wiz will keep you on the edge of your seat because you never know what you are going to get. They have conquered so much already going from a basically dormant franchise, post-Gilbert Arenas, to the rising stars they are today. But you have to keep your eyes wide open at all times because they never follow a smooth trajectory to the W. But hey, maybe, just maybe, that’s why NBA fans can’t take their eyes off the Wiz.

Today Jeffrey Sanders (@JeSanders11) from Valley of the Suns drops by to assist on this preview with a Q&A. Read on…


Teams: Wizards at Suns
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Arizona
Television: ESPN/CSN
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Suns fav’d by 6.5 points


#1) According to the latest fivethirteight.com NBA Power Ratings, the Phoenix Suns only have a 39.6 percent playoff expectancy despite having a three-game lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 8-seed out West. Is this current Suns roster ready to take the next step in their evolution as a young, up-and-coming team?

@JeSanders11: There are night where the Suns look like they can beat anyone in the league and other nights where their immaturity costs them games. Ultimately, I think the Suns’ lack of veteran leadership will prove costly down the stretch. Remember, even though this team won 48 games last season, and are right in the mix for a playoff spot again this year, they are still the fourth youngest team in the NBA. This team is still learning how to win together, but they just aren’t there yet. They need a major injury to one of the seven teams in front of them, and Oklahoma City, for them to get in the dance.

#2) Markieff Morris is having his best season as a pro with a career-high in minutes per game (30.3), FG% (49.1), and points per game (15.3). Is he already outplaying the four-year, $32 million contract extension? And is there a much ado about nothing over the Coach Hornacek-imposed automatic benching after a technical foul?

@JeSanders11: Markieff Morris may be playing himself out of Phoenix. This guy just can’t keep his composure, and it is costing his team games, and giving the coaching staff headaches. He has 10 technical fouls this season, and is the key cog for Hornacek’s policy of benching players who get a technical for yelling at officials. Goran Dragic was the first player to receive the punishment in Friday’s loss to the Rockets, as Morris was benched on Sunday. The thing was, Morris was the one shooting free throws when he got his technical, a complete selfish act when you also throw in the fact that his back-up, Brandan Wright, was unavailable due to injury. By taking himself out of that game against the Clippers, it gave them no power forward, and the Suns went from leading 60-58 at the time of the technical to losing 120-100.

After Sunday’s game, Hornacek ranted to the media about being fed up with the technicals, and maybe doing something more drastic if guys continually to show they don’t want to do things the right way. The front office is backing Hornacek’s decision to bench players for technicals, so we will see how the players take it moving forward. Jeff has made his statement by saying he would rather lose games then play players who make selfish acts.

#3) Is the small sample size of Alex Len’s 46 games of decent production (15.90 PER) enough to warrant the rumors of Suns brash actively dangling Miles Plumlee on the trade market?

@JeSanders11: A writer on ESPN.com a week ago—forgot his name—made a trade proposal of the Suns sending Eric Bledsoe and Alex Len to the Cavaliers for Kevin Love. General Manager Ryan McDonough would fall over laughing if the Cavs even offered Love for Len straight up, if that answers your question. The entire organization, from players to coaches to management, have been raving about the former Maryland product. Since Len entered the starting lineup, the Suns have gone 14-7, and it isn’t a coincidence. Now, I think Plumlee still has value to the Suns this year as a role player off the bench, but if McDonough gets a first-round pick for him, I am all for sending Plumlee out.

#4) One thing that was apparent for a lot of Wizards fans who watched the Suns’ 104-92 win in Washington was that Eric Bledsoe is one of the few point guards in the NBA who can match the athletic prowess of All-Star John Wall. Is that the most important individual matchup when these two teams face off again in Phoenix?

@JeSanders11I don’t know if that is the most important matchup, but it is by far the most exciting. Bledsoe and Wall are two of the funnest guards in the league to watch play, and it’s unfortunate these teams only play twice a year.

 

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.