Opening Statements: Wizards vs Mavericks, Game 18 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Mavericks, Game 18

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Updated: December 6, 2015

Washington Wizards at Dallas Mavericks - Nov. 14, 2012


 Teams: Wizards vs Mavericks
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Mavs fav’d by 2.5 points.


What a roller coaster of a week for Washington’s professional basketball team. On Tuesday, the Wizards defeated their closest thing to a rival over the last decade in the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they did so in a manner that would have you believe this team was ready to rock for the rest of the season. The Wizards turned around the very next day and dropped a game to the lowly Lakers, who at the time boasted only two wins and might have been coming off the worst loss of the season: to the 76ers, who’d lost 28 straight. In response to that embarrassing loss in the Phone Booth, which looked and sounded like STAPLES Center East, the Wizards were participants in what had to be the sloppiest basketball game ever witnessed in their win over the Phoenix Suns. Beggars can’t be choosers and, well … a win is a win.

Now the Wiz must take on the reeling Dallas Mavericks, who are going through an early-season crisis of their own. Through the first 13 games of the season, the Mavs were one of the surprising feel-good stories in the NBA. They were 9-4, riding high on a five-game winning streak, and Dirk Nowitzki appeared to have turned back the clock with his play. Now, the Mavs have lost five of their last seven games and, just like the Wizards, are trying to keep their ship from taking on more water.

The Wizards came into this season with full intention of playing faster and using more small-ball lineups. Due extenuating circumstances, the Wizards have gotten a look at small-ball lineups that Randy Wittman has “never dreamed of.” He said so himself. Newly signed center, Ryan Hollins, was forced into the starting lineup against the Suns because of the fact that Marcin Gortat is in Poland dealing with a family emergency, while Nene, Drew Gooden, and Kris Humphries were all unavailable due to injury. Hollins only logged 13 minutes in the end, as Randy Wittman rolled the dice, even using Otto Porter at center for several minutes—a decision that turned out to be a winner.

The small-ball Wizards actually out-rebounded the Suns, 41-35, and had their second-most productive outing in terms of points in the paint (50). Maybe the Wizards have stumbled upon something that they can use to play more effectively, but conventional wisdom seems to suggest that once Wittman has his full arsenal of bigs at his disposal, he will probably revert back to more traditional lineups.

Sunday evening’s match-up against the Mavs might prove to be a good case study as to how the Wizards will approach their lineup decisions going forward. The often Mavericks wheel out two 7-footers in Zaza Pachulia and Dirk Nowitzki, stretch 4 patient zero. Dirk is having a masterful season for a 37-year-old, averaging 17.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, shooting 42 percent from behind the arc.

The player that is most intriguing in the Dallas frontcourt is their first big off the bench, Dwight Powell. Powell is averaging 8.8 points and 6.5 boards in just 19.8 minutes per game. That type of efficiency is hard to find anywhere, but especially in bottom-of-the-barrel players in this league. Powell, who was essentially a throw-in by the Boston Celtics in the Rajon Rondo trade, has turned into a valuable asset for the Mavs—he owns the second-highest PER in Dallas at 19.8. The Wizards actually would have drafted Powell with their second round pick in 2014, but the then-Charlotte Bobcats took Powell with the 45th overall pick, apparently leaving Washington’s front office without a good option, so they sold the rights to the 46th overall pick, Jordan Clarkson, to the Lakers.

While the Mavs frontcourt has been as solid as ever, their backcourt, which welcomed Wes Matthews and Deron Williams in the offseason, has yet to get on track. Matthews has struggled mightily to live up to the four-year, $70 million contract that he signed this summer. He is shooting a career low 34.2 percent from the field to go with a PER of 9.6, which has prompted the player himself to admit his faults. After the Mavericks loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday, Matthews made some poignant comments regarding his recent slump:

“I’m just tired of hurting the team, tired of missing shots. I put everything I have into this game. I have since I started playing. I put everything I had into getting back and being ready. I’m just trying to keep the doubt out. I never second-guess myself. I’ve never been the one to be hesitant or lack confidence.”

If the Wizards want to snap their 10-game losing streak to the Mavericks, they must not allow Matthews to regain his confidence in the Phone Booth. They also need to score more points before the final buzzer, so the onus will be on Bradley Beal to pick up where he left off with his 34-point outing against the Suns. Beal and the rest of the Wizards wings need to make a concerted effort to attack the rim and get to the free throw line against a team that is one of the worst when it comes to rim protection, averaging 3.8 blocks per game, ranking them 29th in the league.

I know that this isn’t a D.C. versus Dallas contest that everyone is anticipating (the Redskins and Cowboys play on Monday night). But this city’s hoops team has a prime opportunity to redeem some of the luster that was lost as a sports town on Tuesday night versus the Lakers with a much-needed win against a sports town arch-nemesis.

 

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.