After snapping a four game losing skid on Monday Night, the Washington Wizards will meet the New York Knicks for the second time this season tonight, hoping to start a new winning streak.
Key Match Up
Despite his horrible contract, Emeka Okafor has been the most consistent Washington Wizard so far this season. Okafor was billed as a ‘defensive anchor’ from the start of the season, but he’s grown to become much more than that. Averaging nearly 11 points per game in his last ten outings, Okafor has been a pretty reliable offensive player. Above all, Okafor has emerged as one of the leagues best rebounding big men. ‘Mek’ averaged over 11 rebounds per game in January, and he’s shown no signs of regressing. As a result of Okafor’s outstanding rebounding and presence in the paint, the Wizards are now a top ten rebounding team in the NBA.
Tyson Chandler, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, has had a very similar impact to Okafor on the New York Knicks. Although the Knicks still aren’t an elite rebounding team, Chandler has helped change the defensive culture in New York. Chandler isn’t the type of player to rack up blocks, but he does alter plenty of shots with his length and athleticism. Chandler has grabbed 20 rebounds in three consecutive games. Okafor is a more polished offensive player, but Chandler’s length allows him to get put backs and lobs with ease. At 7’1, Chandler will have the height advantage against Okafor. If ‘Mek’ doesn’t rebound as effectively as he has been lately, it’ll be a long night for Washington. New York is filled with streaky shooters, so you can’t allow them to get second opportunities. I’m interested to see how well Okafor will perform against Tyson Chandler.
- Bradley Beal, who’s been dealing with a right wrist injury, will be a game time decision tonight. Beal did participate in the team’s shoot around, so I’d expect him to make his return tonight against the Knicks.
- Martell Webster is shooting nearly 50 percent on corner three point opportunities. Washington will need all the shooting they can get tonight.
- John Wall hooked up his teammates with some sweet gadgets.
- ‘Sheed reminisced about the old Washington Bullets he was a part of.
- Thomas Pruitt, of Bullets Forever, took a look at Jordan Crawford’s recent productivity, or lack thereof.
- New York is ranked third in offensive efficiency. Washington? Still last.
- They’re also ranked second in three point percentage. Washington? 28th. With Bradley Beal out, Washington has clearly struggled hitting the three. Martell Webster has virtually been their only productive three point shooter. Somebody pay that man!
Like Washington, New York has dealt with plenty of injuries this season. With Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert back in the rotation, New York is finally getting healthy once again. As a result, the Knicks have won 8 of their last 10 contests.
As I mentioned, New York is filled with shooters. Averaging over 28 rebounds and 6 rebounds per game, Carmelo Anthony has played some of the best basketball of his career this season. Stoudemire, who returned from injury very recently, has also been productive in his return. He’s averaging over 18 points per game in his past five games, all while playing under limited minutes. ‘Melo’ will without a doubt get his numbers. But how will he get his numbers? Carmelo Anthony has had a reputation of taking difficult shots, but he’s dialed that down since he arrived in New York. Martell Webster as well as Trevor Ariza, who’s viewed as Washington’s best perimeter defender, need to do a good job in forcing Carmelo Anthony into taking bad shots. ‘Melo’, in my opinion, is the second best ‘score first’ player in the NBA. He’s capable of hitting shots from everywhere on the court, as well as doing the dirty work down low. He’s basically unstoppable. The only person that can stop ‘Melo’ is ‘Melo’. For Washington’s sake, let’s hope Carmelo Anthony falls in love with tough shots.
Anthony isn’t the only capable scorer in New York. J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, as well Steve Novak are make up a group of players who are prone to lighting Washington up. Defense is the key tonight. Washington obviously won’t be able to stop all of those guys, but closing in on the shooters, and making them take tough contested shots, may do the trick. New York doesn’t have a post presence, so they’ll obviously look to score from the perimeter.
Everyone needs to be involved tonight. Washington can’t come out one quarter, and not show up another. The effort has to be there all night long.
With that said, I can’t see the Wizards upsetting the Knicks tonight. I’m hoping they’ll pick up another ‘moral victory’.