Opening Statements: Wizards at Warriors, Game 74 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Warriors, Game 74

Updated: March 29, 2016

Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors - Dec. 8, 2012 - Truth About

Teams: Wizards at Warriors
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
Television: TNT
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Warriors fav’d by 13

Anything in life worth having is worth working for. And if the Wizards want to make the playoffs, they are going to have to play extraordinary ball over these last nine games. Actually, extraordinary doesn’t even begin to describe the effort that it will take for the Wizards to stay competitive tonight against the defending world champion Golden State Warriors, who have somehow managed to exceed expectations while striving for another ring (they are 35-0 at home so far).

Unless you have been living under a rock, the whole world knows that the Warriors are in pursuit of NBA immortality, which they’ll have if they break the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls’ regular season record of 72-10. The Warriors currently sit at 66-7, atop the Western Conference standings. But they can’t just worry about chasing history, they also have to fend off another historically great team in the San Antonio Spurs for the 1-seed. The Spurs are just 4.5 games back of the Warriors with 62 wins and 12 losses. One of those 12 Spurs losses came against the Washington Wizards early in the season, so it’s not as if the Wizards are completely incapable of playing at high level (it’s just only ever seen every couple weeks).

The Wizards did not have much luck against the Warriors on February 3. They fell 121-134 in D.C., behind a masterful 51-point Stephen Curry performance in which he hit 11 of his 15 3s. John Wall was no slouch in that contest, going for 41 points himself, put he was the lone bright spot. That game did not feature Wizards guard Bradley Beal, but the way he’s been playing the last three games, he might not be the difference maker this team needs. The thing that separates the Warriors from other teams is the fact that they have so many lethal weapons at their disposal. The other half of the Splash Brothers duo, Klay Thompson, has been quietly revving up his play over the last few games, averaging 37.3 points per game and saving Curry from having to be a superhero on every night.

In order for the Wizards to even sniff victory against the Warriors, they will need to do a much better job at defending the 3-point line than they have all season. Golden State ranks first in the NBA from beyond the arc, knocking down 41.6 percent of their shots, and Washington comes into this game ranked in the bottom five in opponent 3-point shooting percentage (.369). Good communication between the frontcourt and backcourt players in high screen and pick-and-roll scenarios will be key—time, situation, and ball-handler must be considered when contesting on 3-point shots. The bigs need to do a better job at hedging onto ball-handlers to prevent even a half-foot of space (which could lead to open-enough shots or skip passes over an off-balance defense). And the guards, John Wall especially, need to be willing to fight over every screen—if players duck under screens, as Randy Wittman has instructed over the past two weeks, they will get roasted.


Markieff Morris has been quite a surprise with his defensive intensity since coming over from Phoenix. He missed the Wizards last game against the Lakers with a calf strain, and it is still unclear whether he will play in tonight’s game, but Morris gives the Wizards a workable option to combating the Warriors’ Swiss army knife, Draymond Green. Green is a physical and intense player, so the Wizards will need not only Keef’s big body to bang with Draymond, but also his “spiciness” (word to Gortat) keep up Green’s trash-talk.

Steph Curry is chasing a bit of individual history. Curry has 350 made 3-pointers in 2015-16 and needs 50 more to be the first person in NBA history to make 400 3s in a season. Curry averages around five 3-point makes per game, so if he were to keep pace with his average, he would fall just short of 400 at 395 made 3s. If his performance earlier this year against the Wizards was any indicator, he could be significantly closer to 400 after this game.

The Warriors will be without Finals M.V.P. Andre Iguodala again tonight—he has missed the last two weeks due to an ankle injury. So, if there were a night where Bradley Beal could assert himself in front of the NBA world, it’s this one with Golden State’s best perimeter defender out. Remember, it was Beal who not only went toe-to-toe with Kawhi Leonard earlier this season, but also the game-winner to beat the Spurs.

The Wizards—mediocre for eternity, it seems—are somehow still actively in the playoff race. With nine games left, the Wizards may need to go at least 7-2 and see the Pistons go 4-4 to qualify for the postseason. Neither one of these outcomes is outside the realm of possibility, which is exactly why the Wizards owe it to themselves and their fans to put their best foot forward and steal an important game.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.