Opening Statements: Wizards at Timberwolves, Game 58 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Timberwolves, Game 58

By
Updated: February 25, 2015

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Teams: Wizards at Timberwovles
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WTEM-FM 99.1
Spread: T’Wolves favored by 1.5 points.


Four in a row. 

Nine of the last 11.

Sixteen of the last 27.

The Wizards’ schedule since right around New Year’s has as many red splotches as a pubescent teenager before a date, and with no dramatic changes seemingly in the works, there wouldn’t seem to be much reason for optimism.

On the other hand, Washington turned it over 26 times against Golden State, again played without their best shooter, and Garrett Temple played more minutes (32) than any other Wizard except John Wall (34), yet the Wizards were one cup of offensive efficiency away from beating the NBA-leading Warriors. 

Ultimately, the Wiz fell 114-107 on their home court. Despite that—the Warriors probably should have run away with that game—they still get the W and the Wizards grew one more pimple that just adds to the unlikelihood of Washington going all the way (to the NBA Finals). 

Nobody ever told Paul Pierce that there is no such thing as a moral victory. After the loss, The Truth argued that it was a step in the right direction.

“Outside of our turnovers, we played with much more urgency,” Pierce said. “If we can play like that the rest of the season, I think we’ll be fine.”

The problem here, of course, is that Pierce is saying all the team needs is consistency to win, and consistency on this team is in as rare supply as unobtanium.

The Wizards often play well against the top-tier teams, they just end up collapsing down the stretch and eating another piece of greasy pizza to dull the pain. Washington has lost the following games this season: vs. Dallas (by three), vs. Atlanta (by four), vs. Chicago (by eight), at OKC (by seven), at San Antonio (by nine), vs. OKC (by two in OT), at Portland (by seven), vs. Toronto (by four in OT), at Atlanta (by nine), at Toronto (by two). 

That’s 10 games, not including Tuesday night’s stumble, that the Wizards have lost to a very good team (each of those teams has at least 32 wins but both OKC and San Antonio are far better than their records suggest) by single digits. There have also been some beatdowns against the elite teams—Cleveland and Toronto immediately come to mind—but the point is that Washington has had the ability to compete with the upper echelon of NBA powers, they just can’t close games. 

Remember that bit about the lack of consistency? I suppose I should clarify that only the good consistency is lacking. The Wizards are very consistent in letting down their fans in the final moments of big games.

With a game against the 12-43 Minnesota Timberwolves, a dark horse for the top overall pick at just a half game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers, looming, the Wizards face that other pesky problem they’ve had all season: closing out the bad teams. 

If you’re sensing a pattern, it’s because there is one.

Early on, the book on the Wiz Kids was that they won the games they were supposed to but still struggled with the teams widely considered to be better than them. With Randy Wittman throwing that book, as well as any semblance of coaching strategy, out the window, it takes a bold man to bet on the Wizards these days. (Minnesota is actually favored by two points tonight.)

Two losses to the Charlotte Hornets and a 17-point beatdown by the Detroit Pistons in the span of eight games spells bad news for tankers, and no lottery-bound team’s pick is safe from mild alteration by the Wizards.

What’s Changed

The Wiz and Wolves faced off once already this season, when John Wall dropped 21 and 17 en route to a 14-point win for the home team. Circumstances are just a wee bit different these days, though. For starters, the Wolves have that Ricky Rubio fellow back, assuming his ankles have made a full recovery from James Harden’s brutal assault.

With Rubio comes Nikola Pekovic, the 6-foot-11 Yugoslavian who teeters on 300 pounds of Eastern European brute force. Pekovic has missed all but 24 games this season, including the first matchup with the Wizards, with various injuries, but he’s putting up nearly 14 and eight since returning. It should be fun watching some combination of Kris Humphries, Kevin Seraphin, and Drew Gooden try to man him up in the fourth.

On the other side of the equation, the Wizards will be playing their second night of a back-to-back with an 1,100-mile trip sandwiched in between. Paul Pierce took a tumble in the grim waning seconds of the Warriors game, and though you can’t break steel, after a while you can sure as hell dent it.

Bradley Beal may or may not be available (likely not), though the Wizards were previously able to squeeze out a comfortable victory even with Beal shooting 3-for-12 in the first game against Minnesota. Also, everybody’s favorite 38-year-old point guard is now a member of the Sacramento George Karls and in his stead we have Ramon Sessions, for better or worse. 

The other trade that will play a role in this game is of course the Kevin Garnett trade. 

Garnett, the league MVP in 2004 with the Wolves, is back with the team that drafted him fifth overall back in 1995. While it’s unlikely KG, who is averaging just 6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this year, will put up 2004 numbers against the Wizards, it’s another element to consider. Wizards Killers tend to come in all shapes, ages, and sizes.

Wednesday will also mark Garnett’s re-debut with ex-Wizards coach Flip Saunders in two, so emotions could be high at the Target Center. Will the Wizards come out with something to prove against a revamped (but still just not very good) Timberwolves team? Or will the acne spread and Wittman get stood up by his date? Tune in next time to find out!

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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.