Opening Statements: Wizards vs Magic, Game 53 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Magic, Game 53

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Updated: February 9, 2015

Washington Wizards vs Orlando Magic

The Wizards, for one game, were able to seal the leaks in their sinking shipThey snapped their five game losing streak with a commanding 114-77 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night, but understand clearly: this team is not out of the water just yet.

Through 52 games of regular season basketball it has been established that there are five legitimate contenders in the East, and two of those teams will have to play each other in the first round. The clock is ticking on an Eastern Conference game of musical chairs and the last thing the Wiz want to do is be left standing when the music stops. If the playoffs were to start today, the Wizards would have to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, and I don’t think there is a Wizards fan out there who would like to see that. With two more games before the much needed All-Star break, it is very critical that this Wizards team not overlook a pesky Orlando Magic team Monday night.

Considering the Wizards success against the Magic over the last two seasons (7-0 record), and the current state of the Magic, who just fired coach Jacque Vaughn last week, this game should be a shoo-in, but things in professional sports rarely are as easy as they seem. The Magic are coming off of a very competitive game against the Chicago Bulls in which they squandered a six-point lead in the final two minutes, and ultimately fell 98-97.

The Wizards don’t need to look at last night’s box to realize that this Orlando team will not roll over. It took an amazing last second tip-in from Bradley Beal for the Wizards to escape with a 91-89 victory in Orlando on December 10.

 

Speaking of Bradley Beal, who missed Saturday’s win with a toe injury: he was conspicuously absent from the bench altogether.

Somehow the Wizards are now 8-2 on the season with Bradley Beal out of the lineup. In the 10 games that Beal has missed, the Wizards scoring average is up to 100.2 points per game from 99.9, and opponent scoring is down to 94.5 from 97.7. These statistics aren’t an indictment of Beal as a player, but more a question of confusion as to why the Wiz have struggled to integrate their second-most dynamic option. Beal is questionable to play tonight and probably should be rested until after the All-Star break to ensure that he is ready for the homestretch. In the meantime, it would behoove Randy Wittman and the rest of the staff to look very closely as to how they can put Beal in the best possible positions to succeed.

As for the players who will actually take the floor Monday night versus the Magic, John Wall stands out as the talent the Wizards are most dependent upon for their success. Wall is averaging 22 points and 11 assists in the three-game series against Orlando and will need a similar performance if the Wizards are to build upon Saturday’s win.

Otto Porter got the start in place of Beal versus Brooklyn and finished with 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting. As Truth About It’s Conor Dirks noted in his Otto manifesto, Porter plays significantly better in the starting lineup with Wall (as most players tend to do), shooting 52 percent from the field and 60 percent on 3-pointers.

Rasual Butler also apparently still has a pulse, after scoring 15 points on 6-for-11 from the field and leading a Washington bench that scored a season-high 62 points.

Even Garrett Temple will be much needed in a defensive capacity to help slow down Orlando’s best player, Victor Oladipo. The Upper Marlboro, Maryland, native and DeMatha Catholic High School graduate is averaging 19 points in three career winless games against the Wizards.

Nikola Vucevic is the other player that the Wizards will have to worry about in tonight’s matchup. Vucevic averages 11.2 rebounds per game and will make it very difficult for Washington to maintain their East leading plus-3.0 rebounding margin over opponents. Gortat has had his troubles versus Vucevic in the past, in particular if the long distance shooting of Channing Frye pulls the defense of Nene away from the hoop.

The Wizards are feeling better about themselves, but are a long ways away from being able to feel good about their play. Even if they are able to come away victorious against Orlando, it does not really change the narrative of their season—that the Wizards are good, but not great and specialize in beating up on bad teams. As previously mentioned, this Orlando team is coming in as one of the most fractured franchises in the entire association, having lost 11 of their last 12 games. Magic interim head coach James Borrega will be looking to establish a winning culture with his team, and as he so eloquently put after Sunday’s loss to Chicago: “Winning doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to execute. It’s a 48-minute game.”

Tonight’s game is not about asserting dominance over a worse team, but being able to establish a level of consistency for 48 minutes and working hard enough to make up for some of the team deficiencies that are holding the Wiz back from being an elite team. A second consecutive win will go a long way in building confidence, while also allowing them to stay afloat and keep up pace with the Cavs, Bulls, and Raptors.

 

A Vine Time History of Wizards vs. Magic in 2014-2015

 

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Writer
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.