After a tough stretch of games, the Washington Wizards have bounced back with two straight wins over the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks. Since the New York Knicks upset the Golden State Warriors last night, the Wizards will have to take care of their playoff spot alone, and will have a chance to clinch a postseason spot tonight with a victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. The game will tip off at 7:00 PM from the Time Warner Cable Arena.
Key Match Up:
The Bobcats will almost certainly make the playoffs and Al Jefferson could be credited for their outstanding turnaround. Jefferson, who’s been underrated for much of his career, has been playing at an All-Star level for quite some time and will lead the Bobcats to their first postseason appearance since the 2009-2010 NBA season. Jefferson is averaging over 24 points and 10 rebounds in Charlotte’s last five contests and has put up similar numbers against the Wizards this season. Jefferson is arguably the best post-up player in the NBA, but his ability to score inside and out makes him virtually unguardable.
Jefferson lit Washington the last time the two teams met, but Marcin Gortat has had some success against him in the past. In their first meeting, Gortat did a tremendous job defensively, keeping him out of his sweet spots and forcing him into tough contested shots in traffic. Although Jefferson certainly got the best of Gortat in their last game, Gortat has shown that he could defend him without needing a double-team. With that said, Jefferson will inevitably get hot at some point and the Wizards have to collapse and make someone from the perimeter knock down shots. Although the Bobcats are much improved, their shooting is still suspect and I’m sure the Wizards will live with anybody scoring that’s not named Al Jefferson.
- Trevor Ariza hurt his groin against the Hawks, but he seems to be ready to go for tonight. He participated in shoot around and unless something unforeseen occurs, expect Ariza to play tonight.
- Gary Neal also missed a few games due to injury, but he’s also expected to return vs. the Wizards.
- The Bobcats have a top-10 defense in terms of efficiency, but they still struggle to score the ball, as they’re 25th in points per game.
For the first time in about half a decade, the Washington Wizards have put themselves in position to clinch a postseason spot in March. Although they’ve been inconsistent all season long, I’m sure the team is motivated to finally get over that hump and lock a playoff spot tonight.
John Wall and Bradley Beal should be able to outplay Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, but the Wizards must focus on the front court match up. Al Jefferson is the type of player that could win games by himself and the Wizards can’t allow that to happen. If Jefferson gets hot, and he will, Washington has to force the ball out of his hands, and although Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and others could score the ball, I’m sure Charlotte will have less success if anybody besides Jefferson is shooting the ball. Washington can’t afford to come out slow tonight or else the game will be over before the second half even begins. The Wizards can’t put themselves in a hole, because defensive oriented teams like the Bobcats make it extremely tough to come back from double digit deficits.
With all that said, I think the Wizards will sneak out of Charlotte with a win. They know that they have a legitimate shot at securing a playoff spot tonight and they’ll come out ready to play, led by John Wall.