Opening Statements: Wizards vs Heat, Game 32 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Heat, Game 32

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Updated: January 3, 2016

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Teams: Wizards vs Heat
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Heat fav’d by 1 point


I’ve got a hot take for you: I don’t think the Miami Heat are as good as they used to be. Not since that LeBron James fella left.

When James’ talents were based in South Beach, the Wizards went 5-10 against the Heat. In the five meetings since James took his talents back to, uh, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Wizards are 4-1 against his former team, with the only loss coming in the first game of the 2014 season. In those four wins, Washington has scored 107, 105, 99, and 114 points to Miami’s 86, 103, 97, and 103. The Wizards are scoring 101.5 points per game while allowing 104.0 this season. Though the Heat are scoring 97.2 and allowing 95.1 per game, all other signs points to this game, the second of four meetings between the teams, reaching triple digits.

John Wall used to struggle mightily against the Heat. As TAI’s John Converse Townsend noted, Wall entered the season’s first game against Miami scoring barely more than 13 points per game against the Heat, his lowest total against any opponent. Wall dropped 26 on the Heat in that win, raising his career average to 14.1—tied with the Denver Nuggets for the lowest. However, Miami is one of just four teams he averages 10-plus assists against; only his 12.8 (!) per game against the Los Angeles Lakers and 10.4 against the Houston Rockets can top the 10.3 he’s averaged against Miami.

Two other Wall vs. Miami numbers of note: his true shooting percentage is .557, the fourth-highest against any team, and his usage percentage is just 21.5 percent, easily the lowest against any team. His usage percentage only drops below 23 percent against one other team, the Golden State Warriors (22.7 percent), and it’s at least 25 percent against 22 of the 29 non-Wizards teams in the league.

As for the rest of the large men on the court, Miami (19-13) has a distinct advantage in that they have most of theirs available. Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts are both questionable heading into the game, but the rest of the roster is pretty much intact. Washington (15-16), on the other hand, remains a shell of itself. Bradley Beal, Nene, Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair, and Alan Anderson will all return eventually, probably. Drew Gooden briefly did return, in the Wizards’ win against the Orlando Magic Friday, just in time to pick up four fouls in four minutes and re-injure his calf.

The good news for Randy Wittman and the Wizards is the myriad injuries have forced the creative hand. Kelly Oubre started five games due to Otto Porter’s injury, Garrett Temple evolved from a Charmander into a Charmeleon thanks to Bradley Beal’s injury, Ramon Sessions and Jared Dudley have become more versatile and now seem comfortable in a variety of roles thanks to injuries across the lineup, and Jarell Eddie got some burn and could now see time if the Wizards need to quickly make up a deficit.

As a result, Wall has taken on the added responsibility and raised his game to new levels. Oubre is developing instincts to go with his athleticism and defensive confidence to go with the abundance he has on offense. Dudley is beginning to take on something of a Paul Pierce-esque role, albeit a much toned-down version that features some of the scrappiness on defense Pierce occasionally showed during his heyday in Boston—something that was noticeably absent when he graced the Verizon Center court.

In the Wizards’ win over the Magic, Wittman threw together the late-game lineup of Wall, Sessions, Oubre, Porter, and Kris Humphries. That lineup had a minus-16.1 NetRtg in three minutes, according to NBA.com. However, swap Humphries for Marcin Gortat and that lineup had a 100.0 NetRtg in its three minutes.

While we’re on the subject of lineup NetRtg, here’s a fun tidbit. In December, the top three two-man lineups (who played at least 20 minutes together) for the Wizards all featured one player. Wanna guess who that player is? You might have guessed right, but chances are you said Wall, Gortat, Dudley, or Porter. Instead, the answer is one Ramon Goshdarn Sessions. Sesh and Gortat led the way with a NetRtg of 13.8, followed by Sessions and Wall at 10.4, and Sessions and Temple at 9.9. Then comes Temple and Wall followed by Temple and Gortat. That means in the top five two-man lineups in December, Wall appears twice while Sessions and Temple each appear thrice. It also means those three and Gortat make up all five of the top combinations.

Getting back to tonight’s game, the timing appears to work in Miami’s favor. The Heat are 4-0 in Sunday games this season, having beaten the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors by 20 points each in November then sneaked by the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers by 10 total points in December, but they have also yet to play a Sunday game away from home. The Wizards, however, lost to the Dallas Mavericks by 12 on Dec. 6 at the Verizon Center and haven’t played another Sunday game all season.

Small sample sizes aside, the Wizards and Heat generally match up pretty well. It’ll be interesting to see how Humphries and Gortat match up against a frontcourt duo of Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, assuming that two-on-two showdown takes place at some point. With that noted, I’m expecting a productive outing from Bosh, who could see a combination of Humphries and Dudley as his primary defenders for the evening.

However, even taking advantage of the lumbering Humphries on the perimeter or the flailing Dudley in the paint can’t help Bosh find Wall.

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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.