Instead of building on a successful 5-game homestand, a loss against the Boston Celtics has set the Wizards back under .500, and it won’t get any easier from this point on the west coast road trip. Washington will meet the Phoenix Suns (24-17) at the US Airways Center tonight at 9:00 PM EST.
Key Match Up:
John Wall is coming off one his most impressive statistical games of the season, scoring 28 points to go along side 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Despite Wall’s individual performance, the Wizards failed to come up with the win, and he ultimately took the brunt of the blame after the game. Randy Wittman supposedly met with John Wall and spoke to him about working on getting his teammates into the flow of the game. Like many other young stars, Wall is still learning when and when not to take over the game and it obviously didn’t end well on Wednesday night.
John’s a competitor. I sat down and talked with him,” Wittman said. “It’s not a malicious thing. He wanted to try to take over the game for us. Sometimes you try so hard it’s counterproductive because he’s the one guy that can get a lot of guys shots, get them into a rhythm especially at the start of the game.
Wall’s Kentucky teammate, Eric Bledsoe, will be out with injury tonight, but Goran Dragic has stepped up in his place and the Suns have continued to play at a very high level. Dragic is averaging career highs in virtually every category, scoring over 19 points and dishing out nearly 6 assists per contest. Suns hired Jeff Hornacek to take over the head coaching position, and nobody has benefited more from his high octane offense than Dragic. Many people, myself included, predicted that the Suns would be competing for another high draft pick this season, but Hornacek has managed to turn them into this season’s Cinderella story. Dragic is one of the most crafty guards in the league and John Wall will have to find a way to contain him if the Wizards want to stay competitive. The Suns are coming off a 24-point blowout victory over the Indiana Pacers and the momentum is obviously on their side. A lot has to go right for the Wizards to pull off an upset and it starts with John Wall.
- Phoenix is 7th in points per game and score the highest percentage of points coming from fastbreak opportunities in the entire league, according to NBA.COM. Washington also likes to get up-and-down the court, but the Suns are the best in the league in transition. Expect lots of running tonight.
- Hornacek has utilized his shooters better than most of the coaches in the league, as the Suns rank top-10 in 3-point percentage without many traditional shooting threats on their roster. Needless to say, Hornacek is on pace to win Coach of the Year.
- The Suns have a top-10 offensive efficiency, but that hasn’t stopped them from playing hard on the defensive side of the floor. They’re also have the 12th highest defensive efficiency in the NBA, one spot above Washington.
Phoenix has been really, really good this season. They’ve gotten the most out of everybody on their roster and players like Miles Plumlee have unexpectedly turned into productive starters. Gerald Green, the Morris twins, Goran Dragic, along with basically everyone else on their roster have taken advantage of the opportunity they were given by Hornacek and his staff. They’ve been one of the NBA’s best offensive teams and their backcourt, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, have blossomed into young stars under their new system.
John Wall and Bradley Beal both have to play great basketball for the Wizards to compete. Trevor Ariza was atrocious against Boston and that can’t be the case against such a high-powered offensive team like Phoenix. Marcin Gortat is making his return to Phoenix and I’m sure he’s pumped to play against his former team, especially since so many Polish fans will be checking out the game.
Although I think the Wizards could compete against Phoenix, I don’t see them pulling out a victory. Washington has been way too inconsistent this season, making any outcome possible tonight. Will the Wizards team that beat Miami show up tonight, or will the team that lost to a Rajon Rondo-less Celtics show up? The Suns have the momentum on their side and I don’t think they’ll lose at home to Washington.