Opening Statements: Wizards at Heat, Game 19 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Heat, Game 19

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Updated: December 7, 2015

Washington Wizards vs Miami Heat


 Teams: Wizards at Heat
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: American Airline Arena, Miami, FL
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Heat fav’d by 9.5 points


Eighteen games into the season and the Washington Wizards have a record of 8-10 (4-6 at home). They find themselves in the basement of the Southeast Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. There have been at least two games (San Antonio and Cleveland) where the Wizards played like one of the NBA’s elite teams, and there have been others, such against the Los Angeles Lakers, where they played like a downtrodden lottery team. Against the Phoenix Suns, the Wizards played some of their worst basketball of the season for most of the game, but then somehow pulled out a win. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde nature of this season is a far cry from last season, when through 18 games they were 13-5 overall, 9-2 on the road, and fueled by Paul Pierce’s “protect home court” rallying cry.

To be fair, there are plenty of valid excuses for why the Wizards have struggled so mightily. As last Sunday night’s loss to the Mavericks demonstrated, the Wizards are currently playing without any legitimate big men. Nene (calf) is out indefinitely, while Kris Humphries (ankle) and Drew Gooden (calf) continue to be game-time decisions who do not play. Marcin Gortat (personal reasons) is slated back soon but has missed the last two games and could miss another versus the Heat. Coach Randy Wittman over the past three games has been forced to tinker with smaller lineups like a mad scientist, but that’s yielded mixed results. Versus Cleveland, David Blatt’s big men were forced to the bench, and even the great LeBron couldn’t stop the Wizards version of small ball; the Phoenix Suns fell just short; and the Dallas Mavericks—thanks to an uncanny shooting performance by Wes Matthews—handled the Wizards with relative ease.

To make matters worse, John Wall, on the tail end of what had been a brilliant game, left the floor with 1:14 left due to a hurt right knee after colliding with Jeremy Evans. Wall was carried off the court by two teammates but was seen walking around the locker room after the game. According The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, an MRI found no structural damage. While Wall’s status for tonight is uncertain, it would not be at all surprising for him to sit out against Miami on the second night of a back-to-back.

There are 64 games left in the season, but the recent confluence of events, combined with a challenging upcoming schedule (which features nine of the next 13 games against teams with winning records), could very well derail the Wizards’ chances of making the playoffs, let alone advancing to that elusive conference championship.

It sounds like there is reason to panic, right? One could take in the calming influence of Bradley Beal’s words. They were no demonstrative plea to R-E-L-A-X, à la Aaron Rodgers, but unlike Marcin Gortat, who painted a picture of gloom and doom after a loss to the Toronto Raptors, Beal conveyed a sense that the Wizards recent malaise is just a temporary bump in the longer road of optimism and success.

“Given the injuries and what we’ve been through so far, it’s not as bad as people think it is,” he said after Sunday’s loss to Dallas. “We’re not where we want to be, but we’re still competitive and competing. There is still a lot of games to be played. There’s a few we wish we could have gotten back, but there’s a few we have made up for as well. At the end of the day we can’t worry about the games we lost and are in the past, we have to control what we can control and continue moving forward and do what we can.”

The Wizards will need that optimism, and more, headed into this evening’s game against the Miami Heat. The Heat are in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 12-6 record, and they’ve won seven out of their last 10 games. They are coming off back-to-back victories over the Cavs (sans LeBron) and the Thunder (with Westbrook and Durant present and playing). Miami has been without Luol Deng (hamstring) for the past five games, but that has been offset by the play of Goran Dragic and the ageless Dwyane Wade, who has averaged 23 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds over the last two games. By his own admission, Dragic has struggled to find offensive chemistry with Wade and Chris Bosh, but has averaged a very solid 15.5 points and 7.8 assists in the last two. This is probably a good time to mention that Wes Matthews was in a bit of an offensive haze before his game against the Wizards—and we know how that ended.

The last time these two teams met in the regular season, Miami was the short-handed, lottery-bound team (Wade, Bosh and Deng did not play), and the Wizards were healthy and en route to the playoffs. The Wizards led by as many as 32 points, then watched Michael Beasley heat up to bring the Miami within two points before John Wall and Co. righted the ship and eked out a two-point victory. Maybe that means there is hope for the Wizards, who not only have to face Wade and Bosh but also Hassan Whiteside (13 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game) with only Ryan Hollins and DeJan Blair as the big men. If there was ever a time for Wittman’s team to sort out the best of small ball, it’s right now. Whether they’re ready, or even able, remains to be seen.

 

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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.