Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 10th game of the season against the Hawks in Atlanta are TAI’s Sean Fagan (@McCarrick) and guest Daniel Christian (@DChris_Hawks), who writes about the Hawks for the ESPN TrueHoop blog HawksHoop.com.
Wizards Starters (0-9):
Who knows? Randy Wittman indicated that he will change his starters, but will he have the balls to bench Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor? Can’t hurt at this point.
[The Wiz Kids celebrate a home win over Philly last season. - photo: A. McGinnis]
Including two preseason contests, the Washington Wizards have already faced the Philadelphia 76ers four times this season (out of 18 total games, including preseason). Tonight represents the fifth meeting, and at that, the Wizards are searching for their first road win in about 300 days (March 13, 2011 against the Jazz in Utah was the last time). You know the drill… three questions, three answers… Tonight we have Jordan Sams from the SB Nation Sixer blog Liberty Ballers, along with TAI’s John Converse Townsend and Kyle Weidie. Away we go…
#1) In two meetings against the Sixers so far, John Wall has averaged 13 points, 6.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 6.5 turnovers. His current turnaround, however, started with a great second half in that Jan. 14 Saturday night contest — in the four games since that Sixers matchup, Wall has averaged 25.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 3.5 turnovers. Philly’s own Sweet Lou (Williams) has averaged 21.5 points in 25.4 minutes off the bench against Washington this season. Which player is more likely to get over 25 points tonight and why?
[The DC Council -- After each Wizards game: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the bench, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is over the table. Game 12 contributors: Adam McGinnis and Kyle Weidie with first-hand coverage and John Converse Townsend from watching on T.V.]
As I publish this post, the Wizards are down 52-40 to the Philadelphia 76ers at halftime. After a relatively decent first quarter where Washington outscored the Sixers 26-23 behind 11 points from Nick Young on 4-7 shooting and 10 points and five rebounds (three offensive) from JaVale McGee, things came more back to reality. Philadelphia out-scored the Wizards 29-14 in the second quarter. It’s not that Washington was wholly selfish as usual, they just found a way to bumble opportunity, even when Philadelphia gave them a couple chances with turnovers (six, leading to four Washington points). But the Wizards turned the ball over even more, giving it away 13 times leading to 21 Philadelphia points at the half. Below are some speakable quotes from Flip Saunders, Sixers coach Doug Collins, and notorious Wizards killer Lou Williams from before the game started.
Before the game Flip Saunders was asked how a coach sends the message that selfish basketball won’t be tolerated. Flip said:
The Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers may as well been two ships passing in the night last season. The Wizardsbeat the Sixers twice in overtime early in the schedule, during a time when the Wizards looked promising and the Sixers were struggling mightily. Later in the season, the Sixers defeated the Wizards twice by double digits, en route to a seven seed in the 2011 playoffs–the Wizards finished 13th in the Eastern Conference and 18 games behind the Sixers.
This season, the young Sixers will attempt to build on their first-round playoff exit while the Wizards will be looking to join the party. Their respective journeys start tonight at Verizon Center, as they kickoff their abbreviated two-game, home-and-home preseason slate with each other. But before that, TAI writers, John Converse Townsend and Rashad Mobley, along with Carey Smith from the ESPN TrueHoop Blog Philadunkia, address issues for both teams. Three questions, three answers start now…
1) According to the TrueHoop blog Philadunkia, Evan Turner has been working with a shooting coach and his shot has improved. John Wall spent the entire summer showing off his improved jumper and all-around game. Which player has more pressure to succeed in their second year? Who will be more successful?
TOWNSEND: Expectations are certainly higher for John Wall in 2011-12, but Evan Turner is under more pressure. Wall’s productive first season earned him recognition as one of the league’s brightest young stars. Turner, meanwhile, was largely forgotten, despite being the second overall selection in the 2010 draft; the 6’7” shooting guard struggled with his jumper, particularly beyond 10 feet, and failed to create consistently around the rim.
Usually this feature is called “Perfect Play” and breaks down an exceptional Wizard set from the game. Well, after last night’s blowout loss to the 76ers, business as usual just feels unnatural. It was a depressing performance from a team depressed by the impending trade of Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong to Atlanta.
The following play is one I would argue is exemplary of the reason the Wizards looked so terrible. It would be facile to just show Wall tossing a three off the backboard or an ugly Blatche isolation. The truth is, there is often real motion in the Wizards offense, it just doesn’t yield anything faintly reminiscent of teams like the Boston Celtics.
The Wizards were going through their offensive actions, but with no production, with no meaning behind the motion. It took eight frames to document this play from the beginning of the fourth quarter, I hope you stick around for the end, I’m sure you’ll be disappointed with the result (but hopefully not with the analysis).
On the floor for the Wizards: John Wall (2), Nick Young (1), Josh Howard (5), Trevor Booker (35), and Kevin Serphin (13)
[It's bad enough that the Sixers mopped the floor with the Wizards on Wednesday night... Making matters worse, this fan represented Washington in the city of Philadelphia.]
Tuesday night in Washington against the Indiana Pacers, Andray Blatche helped the Wizards dart out to a quick start and a 30-25 lead after one quarter by contributing 12 points himself. Then Jeff Foster did his best Dennis Rodman impression by grabbing seven rebounds against JaVale McGee in the second quarter, as the Pacers held the Wizards to just 19 points while scoring 33 of their own. Just like that, Washington was down 58-49 at the half and never recovered en route to 113-96 loss.
Last night against the resurgent 76ers in Philadelphia, the Wizards started off with a strong effort once again. In the first quarter, John Wall had nine points and six assists, and Blatche and Young had eight and seven points respectively. The score was 31-24 after one quarter, and it appeared as if the Wizards had quickly learned their lesson after a sluggish performance the night before — a performance that made Flip Saunders question who and was not entitled to playing time.
Then that evil monster called the second quarter showed up and decided to spook the Wizards once again. This time, Josh Howard was the main target. Kirk Hinrich was in street clothes and probably getting text messages about the trade of he and Hilton Armstrong to the Atlanta Hawks, which meant that when Wall came out of the game with 8:52 left in the second quarter with the Wizards up 33-29, Howard had to play backup point guard for the second consecutive night.
Cartier Martin is like Clockwork. You need him to be that guy? He’ll be on time. Play defense, hit a corner three, box out and keep the other team from getting a second possession, hit a last-second, game-tying three? He’ll do it. I don’t know if “Clockwork” will stick, but that’s what I’m calling him.
Beautiful shot by Cartier last night by the way. He only sent the game into overtime, no biggie. Kirk Hinrich was supposed to be the decoy, Nick Young the first option and Martin the second, according to Flip Saunders. Let’s take a look after the jump:
In the previous entry, I touched on the Wizards post-game locker room atmosphere after beating the Sixers. Thinking about the game again last night and this morning led me to pause … they were really, really close to losing another heart breaker. Momentum really could have shifted had Lou Williams hit that wide open corner three, which would have given the Sixers a 100-98 lead, potentially capping a 10-2 Philly run since Eddie Jordan called a timeout after Caron Butler’s big dunk.
But thankfully, Williams’ shot was off, the Wizards made their free-throws, and the Sixers made some mental errors (fouling down three with 34 seconds left? … what was that?). It could have been a much different locker room, one that wasn’t seemingly so naively content with a single win.
And that’s why I’m a tad excited for tonight’s game in Milwaukee, just another chance to see what the Wizards are made of. I’ll have more on the Philly game to come. But until then, below the video highlights are several links of interest.
Tied with both Philadelphia and Toronto to achieve 39 wins, and finish seventh through ninth in the East (the averages actually break out to PHI – 39.4, WAS – 39.1, TOR – 39.0), the ESPN panel believes that the Wizards will be fighting just to make the playoffs.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix and The Wages of Wins Journal both seem to think the Wiz will be significantly better than sub-40 wins, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. Maybe some of the ESPN experts think the Wizards’ defense won’t be up to par, or that their frontcourt is too thin and they desperately need an upgrade. Of course, when Mike Prada of Bullets Forever wrote the two previously linked pieces, he had improving the team to compete for a championship in mind, not so they can solidify a playoff position. Still, both defense and frontcourt are valid areas of concern.