Opening Statements: Wizards at Cavaliers, Game 82 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Cavaliers, Game 82

By
Updated: April 15, 2015

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Last night the Wizards found themselves in a playoff-type atmosphere. They tried to deal a serious blow to the Indiana Pacers’ playoff hopes this year as payback for what they did to Washington last year. They fell short in what Charles Barkley hyperbolically called “the most boring double-overtime game in the history of basketball.”

Tonight’s Wizards versus Cavs matchup may be just as boring as last night’s game, because it is meaningless from an Eastern Conference Playoffs standings perspective. Both Cleveland and Washington are locked into the second and fifth seeds, respectively. Cleveland is scheduled to take on the upstart Boston Celtics in the first round, and the Wizards must await the result of other, more meaningful games before they know whether to prepare for the Toronto Raptors or a second consecutive first-round playoff date with the Chicago Bulls. Starters for both teams figure to play limited minutes at best, especially after Washington’s marathon session in Indianapolis, which means fans will likely get a steady diet of Kevin Seraphin, Will Bynum, Mike Miller, and James Jones (and maybe even Brendan Haywood!)—a far cry from the crab-dribble days of yore.

It’s a shame that the outcome of this game is of little consequence, because the Wizards owe the Cavaliers a bit of payback as well. In the first meeting between these two teams this season, on November 22, 2014, the Wizards won rather easily, 91-78. The Cavaliers righted their convoluted ship just five days later (the day after Thanksgiving) and blew out the Wizards by 26 points. Two months later, as both teams came out of the All-Star break, the Cavaliers reprised their role as the dominant team by whipping up on the Wizards by 38 points, while unfazed owner Ted Leonsis and actor Jamie Foxx laughed. The narrative in early November was that the Wizards were riding the momentum of last season’s playoff appearance and were poised to reach that proverbial “next level.” For the Cavs, it appeared as if the new Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love did not have a simpatico relationship with the coach, his system, or each other.

Since that blowout right after the All-Star break, the Wizards are a .500 team (13-13), while the Cavaliers have won 72 percent of their games (18-7). The Wizards have battled a tougher schedule, injuries, the 3-point shot, and have even taken passive-aggressive swipes at each other and the coach. Only a weak bottom-half of the Eastern Conference and a recent mini-win streak against sub-.500 teams has kept Washington in the 5-seed. The Cavaliers—save for some tabloid-like drama about the Love/James relationship, and a notion that James is the offensive coordinator—have gotten stronger thanks to better cohesiveness and the mid-season acquisitions of Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timothy Mozgov. And with the Hawks and Raptors not playing as well as they did early in the season, and Chicago’s inconsistencies due to injury, there’s every reason to believe the Cavaliers will represent the East in the NBA Finals.

Despite the disparity in their play, both teams have concerns to address before the playoffs begin on Saturday.  The Wizards, as evidenced in their loss to the Pacers Tuesday night, are prone to offensive and defensive lapses, which cause them to lose comfortable leads and look disjointed on offense. Those types of lapses, and the injuries during the season to Nene and Beal, have caused a noticeable slip in the Wizards’ ability to be consistent. That lack of consistency will hurt them against the Raptors (who, despite their recent struggles, are 3-0 against the Wizards this season) or the Bulls, who have revenge on their mind, as well as Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, and an improved Jimmy Butler on their side this year. As TAI’s John Converse Townsend wrote in last night’s Key Legislature post, “…a chance at victory is always nice. But a second-place finish this weekend against Chicago or Toronto won’t be so easily forgiven.”

As good as LeBron James is—he’s the real MVP according to J.R. Smith—he hasn’t gone to playoff battle with a team this untested since his early Cleveland years. Kevin Love and Irving will be breaking their playoff cherries when the ‘second season’ starts, and players like Smith, Shumpert and Mozgov have not felt the pressure of being on a James-led team that is expected to win—and chase championship rings. Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion can lend their helpful words and the intermittent turn-back-the-clock minutes, but if Love and Irving turn out to be regular season stars only, the Cavs could struggle.


Teams: Wizards at Cavaliers
Time: 8:00 p.m. EDT
Venue: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Television: CSN+
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Cavaliers fav’d by 8 points.


Other Wizards Notes…

Gilbert Arenas, who has managed to keep himself NBA-relevant, despite being out of the league for two full years now, has decided to become to unofficial ambassador of the Washington Wizards. Via his Instagram page, Gil had this to say about the Wizards facing the Raptors or the Hawks in the playoffs:

“Im ready…..the #DMV is ready….toronto yall dont want these problems…CANADA im sorry but ur players still dont know ur national anthem songz…unless #drake put that in a song…yall just wasting 5 mins of warmup time…im just saying we have older players..and that #bengay runs out by time the game start….#BULLS u better not drop that game tomorrow….or we frying up some bologna and yes were gonna keep the ring on it..hahahaha #trashtalking101 i need my tickets front row #MsJones”

It has been difficult to determine whether Paul Pierce has been injured or old this season, but based on his recent interview with Jackie MacMullan for ESPN, he has definitely been opinionated. Pierce doesn’t address his struggles this season, but he did say next season will be his last, and declared his love for the Wizards and their chances to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. Other Pierce comments of note:

  • On John Wall and Bradley Beal: “I keep telling Wall and Beal, ‘You’ve got to make up your mind. Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great? Because if you want to be great, you gotta do it every single night, not just when you feel like it.’ “Both of those guys have the potential to be great. I love them. But sometimes I’m not sure they realize what it takes.
  • On Otto Porter: Otto is another one who just doesn’t understand how good he is. He can shoot, he’s a slasher, he can defend, I’m just not sure how badly he wants it every day. That kid just needs to get mad. If he came to practice ticked off and to the games ticked off, he’d be fine. But it’s hard to get Otto mad. I should punch him one day just to get him riled up
  • On tonight’s opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers: You definitely have to worry about Cleveland because they have LeBron and some vets now, but if we get to the conference finals, anything can happen
  • About King James: “I always say I wish I was in my prime matching up against LeBron,” said Pierce, grinning. “Let’s see how many championships he would have won then.’ “

The Wizards’ new primary logo was was unveiled earlier today:

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According to an email sent out by the Wizards PR staff:

“The new primary logo incorporates the ‘monument ball’ design that has been in place since 2011 in combination with the iconic striping from the team’s uniforms, the three stars that represent D.C., Maryland and Virginia.”

No word on when Monumental Entertainment will end this charade and change the logo back to what it should be:

bullets


 

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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.