The Wizards are finally back on the winning side of things after stunning the Brooklyn Nets in overtime on Friday, but it won’t get any easier today as they’ll meet the surging Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight at 7:00 PM.
Key Match Up:
When NBA pundits think of athletic guards in the league, Russell Westbrook and John Wall almost immediately come to mind. Both guards are considered two of the most explosive point guards the league has seen in quite some time, and each time they’ve matched up it hasn’t failed to deliver. Coming off a rather significant injury, Russell Westbrook has shaken off any sort of rust he had while being sidelined, and has helped the Thunder improve to a 4-1 record this Friday with a win over the Pistons. Though his shooting percentages leave much to be desired, he’s still an offensive threat the Thunder were definitely lacking in his absence. Without Westbrook on the floor, Kevin Durant was obviously forced to carry the offensive load and we’ve seen that change with Westbrook taking nearly 19 field goal attempts per game since he returned from injury.
On the other hand, John Wall has looked spectacular in Washington’s first five games of the season and I’d expect that trend to continue. Randy Wittman went out of his way to note Wall’s improved defensive after Friday’s victory over Brooklyn, and if the Wizards want to remain competitive against the Thunder tonight, he’ll have to carry that over against Russell Westbrook. Averaging nearly 28 points and 9 assists in their four match ups against each other, Westbrook has undoubtedly gotten the best of Wall but we haven’t really seen them compete against each other since the Wizards have improved their roster. It’ll be an interesting duel, and whoever comes out on top will probably lead them team to victory tonight.
- Kevin Durant is coming off a 37 point, 8 rebound, and 7 assist outing against the Detroit Pistons. I think it’s safe to say that Ariza needs to be locked in tonight.
- Steven Adams, who the Thunder drafted to ultimately replace the declining Kendrick Perkins, scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Andre Drummond on Friday. Washington might have the advantage of front courts, but Adams seems to be legit.
- Courtesy of ESPN, John Wall shoots 29% against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which is his lowest field goal percentage against any opponent.
- Today will be the first game of Washington’s three game road trip. They’ll meet the Thunder today, followed by the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs.
A lot has to go right for the Wizards to pull out a victory tonight in Oklahoma City, but stranger things have happened in the NBA. (see: this ridiculous game winning three pointer by Jeff Green over the Miami Heat last night)
Washington will have to find a way to contain Kevin Durant, which is no easy task given the fact that he’s leading the league in scoring on a nightly basis. Westbrook hasn’t been particularly great this season, but he’s still a threat. The Wizards have beaten the Thunder in the past, most notably after Bradley Beal’s first game winning shot of his career without John Wall, so it’s not impossible. The only advantage Washington will probably have is their front court. Nene and Marcin Gortat have meshed well after their first 3 games playing together, and they should be able to get the upper hand over Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins/Steven Adams. If the Wizards dominate the paint, and find a way to stop penetration which they haven’t been able to do all season long, they could potentially win tonight.
Unfortunately, it’s more likely that the Wizards will fall to 2-4 after tonight’s loss. Even though a loss will inevitably be discouraging, it’s important for Washington to remain competitive throughout the entire night.