Opening Statements: Wizards at Magic, Game 35 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Magic, Game 35

By
Updated: January 9, 2016

Washington Wizards vs Orlando Magic


Teams: Wizards at Magic
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Amway Center, Orlando, FL
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Magic fav’d by 2.5 points


Road trip time for the Washington Wizards. Three of their next four games are away from the Verizon Center; tonight’s game in Orlando is the first. Maybe that makes little difference for the lowly Wizards, a team that is sub-.500 on the road (7-8) as it as at home (8-11), but the struggle is real and visceral. After two strong postseason runs, albeit surprising runs which ultimately ended in disappointment (last year) or embarrassment (the year before that), the Wizards continue to cement their position outside the playoffs with each passing week.

This single-star squad—limping but splinted upright by role players, over-the-hill vets, and a rising star rookie—has shown few signs of being special. While John Wall is not free from criticism, and hasn’t always played well this season, he’s been the only true and reliable game-changer. (Something that could have been written last year, or the year before.)

Without Bradley Beal, they lack a pure shooter and a scoring threat to force a change in strategy from opponents. His absence has also demanded that Otto Porter and Garrett Temple, two role player extraordinaires, play heavy minutes—an unfair burden. But that is life in the NBA and both players are shooting under 32 percent from the 3-point line this season: not good enough. Marcin Gortat has performed like a pendulum, at times great but just as often terrible, without his beefy buddy cop, Nene, on the floor. Nene is back, which predicts good things to come in terms of attitude and interior defense, but neither are a guarantee: he’s increasingly crotchety, an agitator more than an enabler, and a step slow on both ends of the floor. Alan Anderson … well, he’s been out of commission since he signed on the dotted line. This past Thursday, Head Coach Randy Wittman cheered once again having the option for a 5-on-5 practice, welcoming back Drew Gooden, Gary Neal, and, as mentioned, the big Brazilian. Fun times, or something.

Health, or the lack of it, has been the go-to excuse for familiar failures on the court—it’s been available for selection since the opening tip of the season, and even before. Optimism, now, appears fleeting. As @OBtoojiveforyou put it, no combination of Nene, Gooden and Neal can possibly be counted on to save the day. Even Beal, who has improved his #MathBasketball GPA, fell off the All-Star train. That hurts, and he’s hurting. Who else has the minerals to take over and win a game like DeMar DeRozan did last night, or Kyrie Irving did a few nights prior?

Another take:

The Wizards won the first three games against the Magic this season, sealing the deal in the most recent game with explosive fourth quarter. It was Washington’s 11th straight win over Orlando. Then, TAI’s Rashad Mobley credited Randy Wittman’s “masterful coaching moves,” and fellow contributor Bryan Frantz celebrated a dominant showing from the team’s wings. But even with history on their side, the Wizards can’t bet on a win in South Florida. (Vegas likes the Magic, anyway.)

As it stands, the Magic (today’s 8-seed) are surging with a 12-7 record at the Amway Center, and they’re also one of just 15 teams with a positive average point differential. The Wizards, meanwhile, are a minus-3.3. And Orlando’s players, like former No. 2 draft pick Victor Oladipo, who’s 0-9 against Wall and Co., are sick of the same result. He’s taking the losses personally. “We have to realize that they’ve been punking us, really. Until we get tired of them punking us, we’re never going to beat them,” Oladipo said on New Year’s Day.

Magic coach Scott Skiles, who loathes the versus-Wizards losing streak with equal parts disbelief and resentment, praised his young guard after a 20-point, 9-rebound outing against Brooklyn. In the past three games, Oladipo is averaging 19.3 points per game, shooting 60 percent from the field.

“I’m happy for him because he puts in a lot of work,” Skiles said. “We know that his shooting percentages coming into the New Year,” those being sub-.400 from the field and sub.-300 from 3-point range, “are not the type of shooter that he really is. He’s a better shooter than that, and he’s been able to get some good looks now and knock them down. He had his normal, very energetic defensive game going again, so he is a very valuable player for us.”

The other player to watch is Nikola Vucevic, one of the most consistent and well-rounded centers in the NBA. Vuc has led, or tied, the team in scoring 14 times, in rebounding 14 times, and even in assists once. Vuc has reached double-digit point totals in 30 of the Magic’s 37 games and scored 20 or more in 12. His complete inside-out game could cause serious problems for a Wizards team that’s been exposed around the perimeter and also lacks a true rim protector.

My prediction? A close game between two kind-of-bad teams. The Magic are 2-11 against teams above .500, while the Wiz are 9-14. However, the Magic are 18-6 against teams with losing records while the Wiz are … just 6-5.

Advantage: cloudy, but in favor of the home team. Skiles, ‘Dipo, Vucevic, and the other magicians win by a handful. And if John Wall doesn’t bring him A game for a second consecutive game, there’s a real chance for a blowout.

*DJ Khaled voice*

Another one.

 

John Converse Townsend on EmailJohn Converse Townsend on FacebookJohn Converse Townsend on InstagramJohn Converse Townsend on Twitter
John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.