Opening Statements: Wizards vs Cavaliers, Game 33 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Cavaliers, Game 33

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Updated: January 6, 2016

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Teams: Wizards vs Cavaliers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Cavs fav’d by 7 points


After the NBA releases its schedule every summer, there is always handful of games to circle on the calendar. Tonight’s matchup between the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers is one of them. The main storylines feature the old Wizards’ nemesis, LeBron James, returning to the Verizon Center along with the marquee matchup of All-Star point guards, John Wall and Kyrie Irving.

Last postseason, Washington appeared headed towards a collision course with Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals … until John Wall busted up his wrist against Atlanta. This season, in their first meeting on December 1, 2015, Washington prevailed in Cleveland 97-85. John Wall was amazing and broke out of his November slump. The franchise point guard dominated the Cavs with 35 points, 10 assists, and 5 steals. Washington’s defense propelled them to victory by holding Cleveland to 33.7 percent shooting from the field—James had more turnovers (9) than Kevin Love had points (8).

Wall was yesterday named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month (for December). It was the first time a Wiz player received this NBA honor since Gilbert Arenas in 2006. In comparison, James has received this award 29 nine times in his career.

These two teams are currently in contrasting situations.

Cleveland has dealt with injuries in stride and sits atop the Eastern Conference standings. The Cavs ranks 5th in Offensive Efficiency and 3rd in Defensive Efficiency. Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman has said today’s Cavs team will be a stronger one than they faced earlier.

“They are a good team, it is a situation where they are getting back to full strength—obviously, adding Kyrie [Irving] and [Iman] Shumpert, two guys that we didn’t face the first time, ” Wittman said. “They are getting back, which makes them even better. It is not so much about Cleveland, but (about) us.”

Meanwhile, Washington, with a depleted roster, is again floundering to be a .500 club. The Wizards’ efficiency ratings are 26th on offense and 19th on defense. The bugaboo all season has been their porous 3-point defense, which was on pace to be the worst in NBA history. But over the past few weeks, Washington has drastically improved in this area: In the last eight games, opponents are shooting 52-for-179 from the 3-point line (29%, down from the low .400s). They are now ranked 28th in the NBA (38.2 %) with Denver and New Orleans being worse. POSITIVE PIXELS!! 

Yesterday, I asked Randy Wittman about his team’s improvement in 3-point defense over the past few weeks. The head coach cut off my question: “Our overall defense has been much better,” he said.
I inquired further, for specific reasons to his team’s defensive progression.
“Focus, effort, intensity of going out and be committed to it. We haven’t changed anything. Our fundamentals are the same. We’re are making a conscious effort to run guys off the 3-point line, defensive rebounding, keep guys better in front of us. Those are the three areas.
“The 3-point shooting because we couldn’t guard anyone off the dribble. That is one of the things that we have done a better job of, which shows why our 3-point defense is better, because we’re not in rotations of scrambling around.”
During the same eight-game stretch, Washington has shot 73-for-197 on 3-pointers (37%) and they have 5-3 record in those games. Cleveland is 9th in the NBA in 3-point shooting (35.7%) and 7th in defending the line (33.1%).  The key factor in how tonight’s contest will shake out will be which team claims the 3-point advantage.
Since James returned from a two-week hiatus in the middle of last season, Cleveland is 38-5 when he, Love, and Irving play together. The Cavs only home blemish this season (16-1) was against the Wizards, so Cavs coach David Blatt and his Big 3 should be motivated for payback in D.C.

Vine Time!

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Adam McGinnis
Reporter / Writer / Media at TAI
Adam is a bro from the Midwest who's been bopping around the District of Columbia for years. He's down with a range of sports, etc. and has covered the Washington Wizards for TAI since 2010.