Winning seven of their last eight home games, the Washington Wizards will look to continue their recent stretch at the Verizon Center tonight against the Brooklyn Nets.
Deron Williams was touted as one of the best, if not the best, point guard in the NBA until this season. Williams averaged close to 21 points and 9 assists last season, but his numbers have dipped quite a bit this year. ‘DWill’, who didn’t make the All-Star team this year, has averaged just over 16 points and 7 assists this season. After being paired up with Joe Johnson, the Nets were supposed to have the best back court in the entire league. Instead, Brooklyn fans were introduced to a rather disappointing start for the two former All-Stars. By no means has Deron Williams declined to the point of losing his ‘star’ credentials, but he has struggled. Brooklyn is still in the top half of the league in terms of offensive efficiency, and I’d credit that particular statistic to Deron Williams.
The last time the Wizards and Nets played, John Wall and A.J. Price were still rehabbing their injuries, which forced head coach Randy Wittman to slide Garrett Temple into the starting point guard position. Now, things are looking very different for the Washington Wizards. Beating the New York Knicks in their last outing, John Wall has just now started to get back into the flow of things. Scoring 21 points and dishing out 9 assists, John Wall has completely elevated the play for the entire Washington group. New York had a very tough time in stopping John Wall from getting to the basket, so I’ll be interested to see how Deron Williams and the Nets choose to defend the surging Wall. It’s time for John Wall to start performing well against elite level players, and that could begin tonight against Deron Williams.
- Andray Blatche is making his return to the Verizon Center tonight. I think the animosity is finally starting to dial down between Blatche and the rest of us Wizards fans.
- Bradley Beal, who has yet to play in the month of February, just may make his return tonight against the Nets.
- Beal will also represent the Wizards on ‘Team Chuck’ for the NBA Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star break. He’ll be paired up with Ricky Rubio in the back court.
- Amin Vafa of Bullets Forever, took a look at how Chris Singleton has contributed with John Wall on the floor. I think it makes sense for Singleton’s minutes to be increasing, especially since he does a decent job in spreading the floor for John Wall. We’ll see if he remains in the rotation.
- Magic Johnson and John Calipari seem pretty optimistic about Washington’s future.
At this point in the season, the Washington Wizards don’t have anything to lose. Upsetting great teams seems like such a formality at this point, so why can’t they stop Brooklyn?
The last time the two teams met, they went into double overtime, which of course was ended by a Joe Johnson buzzer beater. That loss still stings, and I hope the Wizards players haven’t forgot about it. As mentioned, the Nets will be meeting the Wizards under different circumstances this go around. With John Wall back, the Wizards have looked like a completely transformed team. Bradley Beal will probably suit up tonight, so the majority of Washington’s success may be determined by their back court play on both sides of the floor. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are still some of the best guards in the NBA, while John Wall and Bradley Beal are still getting used to playing with eachother. I’ll be surprised if Beal makes his way back into the starting lineup, but I do expect him to get some run tonight.
Above all, Washington has to find a way to stop the first time All-Star (albeit replacement All-Star), Brook Lopez. The last time the two eastern conference teams met, Lopez scored 27 points along side 13 rebounds. Lopez has found a way to become Brooklyn’s number one option, despite their great back court. Okafor tends to play with a lot of aggression, so he may need to regulate himself a bit, since Lopez is one of the best players in the NBA in terms of drawing contact. His game sure isn’t pretty, but it’s effective. With Andrew Bynum out, Lopez may be the best center in the Eastern Conference.
Everyone needs to contribute in tonight’s game. Trevor Ariza, who scored 20 points on Wednesday night, will be another key player in tonight’s game. Basically, Washington needs to show up with the same effort they did when they beat the Knicks.
I’ve been pretty optimistic, so I’ll pick the Wizards to avenge their loss.
We all win if John Wall dunks on Andray Blatche, so there’s that.