Wizards At Hornets Preview (12/11/12)

Reminiscent of the 2011 NBA season, the Washington Wizards remain the only win less team on the road. Tonight they get a chance to stop their cold streak, as they face rookie sensation Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Hornets.

Key Match-Up

Though he has struggled out of the gate; in the past few weeks Bradley Beal has shown flashes as to why he was selected third overall in last year’s draft.

Beal, who is averaging close to 15 points per game during the last five contests, is starting to show his capabilities out on the floor. His ability to shoot the basketball, and even drawing contact when attacking the basket, has helped the Wizards recently down the stretch. While missing John Wall, and A.J Price due to injuries, the Wizards will need Beal to continue putting points up on the board. We’ve all seen that Beal is talented enough to compete with most guards on a nightly bases, but to continue his recent success, Beal needs to work on being constantly aggressive on the offensive end. The Wizards can’t afford to have Beal take possessions off, especially since they are injury plagued for the majority of the season. With the lack of talent and reoccurring injuries, Beal has to continue stepping up and maturing at a faster pace than most rookies in the NBA. The Wizards do not have enough talent, or bodies, to lean on for support. Beal has to continue being a key player offensively, for a team which is ranked last in offensive efficiency.

His counterpart, Austin Rivers, has been subject to much criticism early in his rookie season. With plans in turning Rivers into the lead guard for New Orleans, Rivers has already lost his starting position to former Wizard, Roger Mason Jr. Austin Rivers was selected tenth overall in last year’s draft for his sole ability to score the basketball. New Orleans hoped for Rivers to become more than a scorer, as Rivers’ uncanny first step allows him to penetrate and create for his teammates. In reality, Rivers has so far been the most underwhelming rookie of the year. In the past five games, Rivers has averaged just a tad over five points per game while shooting a horrid .29 percent from the field.

Let’s be honest, the Washington Wizards are marked on every struggling teams’ calender. With Rivers being subject to criticism, he will undoubtedly look to have his ‘breakout game’ against the team with the worst record of the year. The Wizards, who have been a modest yet inconsistent defensive team thus far, cannot allow Rivers to have his first ‘good’ game of the season. Beal and Crawford will most likely be assigned Rivers on the defensive end. They have to contain Rivers from penetrating to the basket, as he will be able to create three point opportunities for his teammates, in which they are the fourth best three point shooting team in the NBA percentage wise.

Other Notes/Links

Prediction

After dropping nine of their last eleven games, the New Orleans Hornets are eying to bounce back against the struggling Wizards, or Sea Dogs as Kevin Hine calls them.

The Hornets, as mentioned, are ranked fourth overall in three point percentage. The Wizards have to close out on their shooters, such as Ryan Anderson, who has the unique ability to stretch out the floor with his size and shooting touch. Though decent offensively, the Hornets struggle at stopping penetration. The Wizards who have struggled mightily at getting things going at the basket, have to take advantage of that specific weakness.

The Wizards and Hornets both lack talent, but the Wizards certainly have the edge at the shooting guard position. Roger Mason Jr. and Austin Rivers aren’t known for their defensive prowess, so Beal and Livingston need to stay on top of their game offensively. Crawford is another player who often settles for difficult jump shots, but has shown that he can draw contact and create for others when attacking the basket. With all of the injuries currently haunting Washington, Crawford and Beal will need to have good games for the Wizards to leave New Orleans with their first road win.

Even though Anthony Davis will be coming off of the bench for tonight’s match up, he’ll undoubtedly be the best player on the floor  tonight. Nonetheless, Washington has to do their best in containing Davis. Though only 19 years old, Davis is polished enough on both sides of the floor to make a great impact on tonight’s result. Okafor has to continue contributing on the defensive end, to make a statement against his former club.

With all that said, I’ll be optimistic with my prediction. As Hornet’s coach Monty Williams stated, the Wizards do indeed have an edge in the experience department. Struggling young teams such as the Hornets, tend to overlook teams like the Wizards and may expect an easy victory. If the Wizards come out strong, and don’t rest on their laurels, they can earn their first road win of the season in New Orleans.

98-91 victory for Washington.

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