Opening Statements: Wizards vs Timberwolves, Game 72 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Timberwolves, Game 72

Updated: March 25, 2016


Teams: Wizards vs T-Wolves
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 8 points

With the sun setting on the 2015-16 regular season, it’s becoming easier to wonder what could have been for the Washington Wizards than to skeptically looking forward to an improbable playoff berth. Wednesday’s loss to the Hawks was severely damaging to the Wizards’ playoff chances—according to FiveThirtyEight’s projections, the Wiz have only a 30 percent chance to make the postseason, down from the 42 percent odds they were given after Monday’s big win.

Coming to town for the last home game before Washington’s five-game road trip out West are the Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves lost to the Wizards 104-98 earlier this month. In that game, the Wizards were led by Bradley Beal, who scored 26 points (one of only eight games this season where Beal has eclipsed the 25-point mark). The reason why that particular stat is so meaningful was made evident by the contrasting performances in most recent the home-and-away series against the Hawks. On Monday, Beal was aggressive with his shot selection, opening up the Wizards offense with five 3-point shots. Conversely, Beal’s midweek passiveness in the Phone Booth was perplexing to fans, media, and players alike. (TAI’s John Converse Townsend would argue that the Wizards did a poor job getting Beal his touches.)

Beal wasn’t the only problem in the loss to Atlanta, however. The Wizards committed 18 turnovers that led to 25 Hawks points. That combined that with the fact the team’s defense was not nearly as effective in protecting the 3-point line as they were earlier in the week and what you have is a the makings of a playoff dream deferred.

All is not lost just yet. With 11 games to go and a 2.5-game defecit on the Detroit Pistons, the Wizards will need to use this game against Minnesota to regain the momentum they lost when their five-game winning streak was snapped. The Wizards have won their last four home games against the ‘Wolves, and while Minnesota has shown promise with a core nucleus of young prospects, there is no reason to believe that they will play the role of spoiler.

The two key matchups to watch for this game are Markieff Morris against eventual rookie of the year, Karl-Anthony Towns, and slam dunk champ Zach LaVine versus Ramon Sessions.

KAT has been nothing short of amazing in his first season out of the University of Kentucky, but Markieff has both the size and athleticism to at least slow down the rookie. Kieff must stay out of foul trouble, of course. Sessions has been struggling of late to finish at the rim (regression to the mean sucks, right?), and hasn’t gotten the bailout foul calls that he has made meals of throughout the regular season. If Sessions isn’t able to create offense for himself and others off the bench, then he’ll likely see his minutes decrease to end the season. Zach LaVine is a dynamic offensive player, but is far from being known for his defensive prowess—Sessions should be looking to take advantage of that.

This game is as much of a must-win situation as this team has been in all season. A win does not guarantee that the Wizards will gain any traction in the playoff race—they have seven road games in their final 11—but a loss will almost certainly end any hopes of making the playoffs.

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.