The Crystal Ball is a new weekly feature to be posted every Monday forecasting the future for the Wizards week ahead..
This week’s games:
January 27, at Los Angeles Lakers
January 28, at Phoenix Suns
January 31, vs. Toronto Raptors
Let’s go Wiz!
Tuesday, January 27th
AT the Los Angeles Lakers
What to watch: Swaggy P!!! Seriously, if ESPN created a channel that just followed Swaggy P during games, it would get more views than any broadcast in the history of mankind. Or at least it should. The guy is constant entertainment. On the court. On the bench. Hitting game winners. Air balling dunks. Awesome dunks. Air balling game winners. You just never know. And now he’s facing one of his old teams! Get your popcorn ready.
Key match-up: Swaggy P vs. his conscience. Seriously. The guy lives by the creed “do it for the vine.”
X-factor: Kobe’s injury (if you wanted to watch Kobe, just watch any old game on YouTube from the last 2 years. Kobe can still hoop, but at this point, you won’t see anything you’ve never seen before). With Kobe requiring surgery and out for the year, the Lakers are going to be playing as free and loose as ever. They need to drop to 5th or worse in the league or they lose their draft pick. The players will be playing to win, but with the knowledge losing isn’t so bad. You know who will shine brightest in that type of environment? Swaggy P!
So Wizards beware. A cross country trip against a pressure free team playing with nothing to lose, and an elite level heat-check player? The Lakers should be an easy win but have all the makings of a trap game loss. My biggest concern? With Kobe out, they’ve got some guy named Nick Young as the projected starter. Who the eff is Nick Young?
Fun factor: Watch this game with someone who hates Swaggy P and hype everything he does. Literally everything. It will be great. Trust me.
As for the Wizards…keep an eye out for that John Wall 360 layup in traffic. The Lakers play poor transition defense, and are slow on their rotations in general. Wall should have at least one opportunity to bring out the 360 finish. Oh, and guess who else likes the 360 layup finish and might just want to turn it into a 360 competition??
Do it for the vine.
Prediction: Wizards win by double digits. Swaggy P goes off for 30+, while trying to go off for 82.
Wednesday, January 28th
AT the Phoenix Suns
What to Watch: This should be a great game to watch. The Suns play an open style of basketball, create excellent spacing, and move the ball beautifully when they’re rolling. Combine that with the Wizards ability to push in transition and attack the basket against the smaller Suns, and we should be in for a high scoring yet clean game. If you haven’t seen many Suns games this year, this game is appointment viewing.
Key matchup: John Wall and Bradley Beal vs Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. No one may agree on the whole “best back court duo in the NBA” argument, but the duo out in Phoenix gets routinely left out of the conversation. They shouldn’t. Dragic (aka “The Dragon”) is one of the craftiest guards in the league, combining deceptive quickness and multiple speeds to achieve un-guardable results. The lefty will mix in drives to the rim, step back jumpers, and 3 point shooting to challenge the Wizards defense all night. As for Eric Bledsoe, think of the Maurice Jones-Drew of basketball. Compact. Powerful. Explosive. Tenacious. He will attack the Wizards on both ends, with no let up. Caution: BOX HIM OUT! He loves to crash the offensive glass, and this is not a team the Wizards can afford to give extra possessions.
On the flip side, the Suns guards are small. Both Dragic and Bledsoe are point guards, and should have trouble handling Bradley Beal. If Beal can take advantage of the mismatches, he should have a big night. As for Wall? Regardless of who’s in front of him, he’ll be the best player on court. However, beating the Suns will require his A game.
X-factor: Gerald Green. Mr “Birthday Cake” dunk himself. Jeff Hornacek has helped rejuvenate Green’s career, and given him the green light to fire at will. And fire, he will. Think JR Smith with less accuracy, but more bounce. If he gets white hot, he could be the difference in the game.
3. Distracting names!
4. former Maryland giant Alex Len!
We’ll handle those quickly, in reverse order.
4. If you’re a Maryland fan, and haven’t watched Len ever since, you’re going to be shocked. “He’s coordinated?!” That Suns training staff truly works miracles.
3. Isaiah Thomas plays point guard for the Suns, as part of their highly entertaining 3 PG lineup. As a result, THE Isaiah Thomas will be referenced multiple times. Let’s set the over/under at 5 times. I’ll take the over.
2. Goran and Zoran Dragic! Goran is the star. Zoran is the other one. But they look alike. So if these two confuse you, good luck with..
1. The Morris twins! Marcus and Markief. They look exactly the same, but play completely different. They’re both good. One can shoot. One can post up. They both rebound, I think, but I honestly don’t know. Here’s a fun challenge: Try to watch the entire game, and at the end, see if you know which one plays how, and who wears which number.
The Phoenix Suns! Good times!
Prediction: Reluctantly, I gotta take the Suns. “Booooo! Booooo!!” I know. I hate myself. I think the Wizards are the better team. But the Suns are good. A good team, on the second night of a back-to-back, at the end of a tough West Coast road trip. That’s a tough game to win. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
Saturday, January 31st
Home vs. the Toronto Raptors
What to Watch: The Wizards lost badly to Toronto earlier this season. Through 45 games, the two teams are separated by just a half game. So these head to head games may prove critical at the end of the year, and the Wizards don’t want to fall to 0-2. It may be early, but these games already have playoff implications: Home court advantage. Seeding. And confidence if they end up meeting in a series. Combine that with a matchup of two all-star starting point guards, and this one may have playoff intensity.
Key matchup: John Wall vs. Kyle Lowry. All-Star Starter vs. All-Star Starter. Both are great in pick-and-roll. Both are great in transition. Both are tenacious defensively. Lowry is the better shooter. Wall is the better creator. Both teams can play up tempo and both teams can slow it down.
Keep your eyes locked on both these guys in transition. Kyle Lowry loves the transition pull-up 3 (the one coaches hate until it goes in). And we all know about John Wall in transition, finding the open shooter, or going to his patented behind the back move.
Bottom line: The team who is controlling the tempo, whether they are slowing it down or speeding it up, will have the advantage. That will be up to the point guards. Game on.
X-factor: Lou Williams off the bench. Check this out:
In wins: 16 ppg. 44% FG. 40% 3-pt FG.
In losses: 12 ppg. 34% FG. 21% 3-pt FG.
Keep a close watch on Williams when he checks in. If he’s on, he could swing the game. And if he’s off, he could swing the game.
Fun factor: Is Drake going to be there? If so, then there’s everything Drake related. “Drake the type of person” jokes. Do they play Drake songs during the game? Do they actively not play them? How will he interact with Wale? Will he interact with Wale?
If not, then I’d recommend making corny Andre Miller jokes while you watch the game. Something like “Andre Miller should play for the Raptors….because he’s a Dinosaur….hahaha…etc.” How your friends react to jokes like this will tell you a lot about your friends.
Prediction: Back and forth game. Stressful to watch. Wizards close it out down the stretch to win and get the Dinosaur off their back.