Opening Statements: Wizards vs Heat, Game 62 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Heat, Game 62

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Updated: March 6, 2015

Washington Wizards vs Miami Heat


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


Tonight’s Wizards-Heat tilt at Verizon Center actually doesn’t have a whole lot going for it, especially since it was dropped by ESPN in favor of a Suns-Nets game of questionable quality. Washington is six games up on the Heat and four games behind the Cavs, with very little realistic hope of returning to the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and almost no danger of sliding lower than the sixth seed. There could be some shame in dropping below the plucky Bucks, but, with the red-hot Cavs currently in the fourth seed and the mildly slumping Raptors in the third, it’s possible to conceive of a situation where the sixth seed would give the Wizards a more favorable first-round playoff matchup.

On the other hand, the Wizards have taken two of three from the Heat this season and now have an opportunity to clinch the season series. That’s something to be excited about, I suppose: the Wizards might be just 3-10 against teams ahead of them in the conference standings, but they’re a respectable 4-3 against the Bucks, Heat, and Hornets, the teams behind them in the top eight (1). They can continue their run of beating up on inferior teams! You will be forgiven for not feeling especially pumped about this particular ambition.

But, if you’re looking for the real reason why you should tune in tonight and root for the Wizards with an intensity bordering on bloodlust, may I suggest the following:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 12.28.24 PM

Washington awoke this morning in Arctic hell, as if someone forgot to tell nature that it is, in fact, March. I ran through half a gallon of windshield washer fluid just navigating from home to work, and my car is a textured and unattractive grey-brown from road spray. A VDOT plow unhelpfully wedged two feet of packed snow and gravel at the end of my driveway, and my dogs are having to burrow their way around like Bugs Bunny in order to get a little fresh air.

So, when I read a Wizards’ game preview that mentioned that Washington would be visited by the Heat tonight, this goddamn game is very much not what I had in mind. And, when it’s over, the fit, tanned, and vitamin-D rich Miami players, win or lose, will be hopping on a plane and returning to a place where there are green things growing from the ground and warmth exists in nature and not just within three feet of a full-blast space-heater. I, meanwhile, will be kicking snow out of my shoes while a bitter wind turns my ears into frozen cauliflower.

This will be the Wizards’ first look at a Heat team recently bolstered by the addition of Goran Dragic, whose arrival coincided depressingly with the news of Chris Bosh’s season-ending (and genuinely scary) condition. The arrival of Dragic, via trade with Phoenix, seemed to be a key development in boosting the Heat from a capable and professional but otherwise fatally shallow and talent-poor operation, into a frisky and potentially dangerous playoff squad. Now, without Bosh, they’d seem to be in much the same boat as before.

Maybe they’ll make the leap anyway, but those who were expecting that a change of scenery and removal from a clunky three-point-guard lineup would transform Dragic back into the world-beating dynamo he was last season are still waiting. Dragic’s season prior to the trade was pockmarked with eye-catchingly humble performances—two points in 18 minutes against the Rockets, consecutive nine-point outings in February, an underwhelming season average of just over four assists per game—and that pattern has mostly held in Miami. After scoring just six points in a narrow loss to the Hawks on February 28, Dragic has rebounded with consecutive 21-point performances in wins over the Suns and Lakers. Consistency has not been his strong suit this season, but recent success could indicate the Wizards are getting a version of Dragic that may finally be hitting his stride.

Then there’s Hassan Whiteside, who the Wizards met as a lightly used reserve in a close Washington win in mid-December. This swaggering-devourer-of-opposing-bigs version of Whiteside will be a new problem for Washington’s interior players. His counterpart, Marcin Gortat, has played more minutes in the last three games (107) than in any other three-game stretch of the season. And while that may be a welcome sign to Wizards fans who’ve been grinding their teeth to powder over his seemingly-arbitrarily-scant allotment of fourth quarter minutes, the increase hasn’t necessarily had the desired effect—Gortat’s rebounding numbers have spiked (14.3 per game), but he’s taken four total free throws, and the Wizards scored just over 90 points per game in going 1-2 over that stretch. The Whiteside/Gortat matchup will be one to watch, as will Coach Randy Wittman’s use of Gortat in the second half.

The Heat have won six of 10 overall and are looking to build a buffer between their seventh seed spot (from which they are unlikely to climb unless someone above them goes into an even more catastrophic tailspin) and the other playoff hopefuls. The Wizards are looking to get back on the front foot and rediscover some amount of offensive cohesion over their remaining 21 games. That this game is not particularly important to the standings doesn’t mean it isn’t important to the teams themselves. Both teams have some opportunity to round into better form as the final few weeks of the regular season count down.

For the fans, our passions have already been stoked. Miami brought to town a broken promise of Heat, and for this crime they must be made to suffer terrible humiliation: to be beaten in a game of basketball. We should not stop there. We should chase them through the streets with torches and pitchforks. We should assemble and lay siege to their city. We should dump endless tons of snow and ice and ice-melt on their beautiful beaches, and return home triumphantly with all their blessed heat captured and chained in cages as trophies of war. We the frozen will no longer stand idly by while they and their kind horde all the warmth, and then taunt us with the word “Heat” blazoned across their jerseys. The audacity! The sheer audacity!

I’m getting hot just thinking about it. Hey!

 

  1. The Wizards have lost to Charlotte twice this season already with two more meetings left, one this coming Monday.
Chris Thompson