The Crystal Ball is a weekly Monday feature forecasting the future for the Wizards week ahead..
This week’s games:
April 8th, at Philadelphia 76ers
April 10th, at Brooklyn Nets
April 12th, vs. Atlanta Hawks
Lets go Wiz!
Wednesday, April 8th
AT vs. the Philadelphia Sixers
What to watch: Otto Porter! Randy Wittman has harping on the fact that “other guys have gotta step up.” Well, during this three game winning streak, Otto Porter has answered the call. He’s been given 32 minutes per game the last three games, and he’s taken advantage.
· Otto Porter last 3 games: 13.0 ppg, 54% FG, 40% 3FG, 7 rebounds
THAT’S A #3 OVERALL PICK RIGHT THERE!
Now, maybe part of this recent glimmer of talent is due in part to playing the Sixers and Knicks two out of the three games, but who cares?! Playing well against bad teams is a great way to build the needed confidence to play well against good teams. That’s exactly what Otto has done. Two good games against Philly and NY led to another good game against Memphis.
Guess who’s on the schedule again this week. The Sixers!
Key match-up: John Wall vs. Wizards assist record.
In case you haven’t been following Hoop District on Twitter (and why wouldn’t you?!), here’s what’s been happening recently:
Kevin Porter recorded twenty-four assists for the Washington Bullets on March 30, 1980. No one has topped the mark since. John Wall has been on a mission of late, and he may be coming for that assist record.
John Wall assist numbers each of the last 4 games: 12, 15, 18, 14.
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 5, 2015
If the Sixers can keep this game close enough to keep Wall in the game, you never know.
X-factor: A rested 76ers team. Of the Sixers eighteen wins this season, ZERO have come on more than one days rest! That’s incredible. The team is 0-8 with two days, and 0-5 with 3 or more days rest. So apparently, a rested Philly team is exactly the type of Philly team you want to play. This does not reflect well on their coaching, their training staff, or anyone really. Renew your season tickets now Sixer fans!
Fun factor: Winning! The Wizards are on a three game win streak, and just handled these guys easily a week ago. The Wizards are still the Wizards, but the Sixers are still the Sixers. This should be another fun win. Enjoy it!
Prediction: Wall gets 15+ assists, but less than 24. Wizards win.
Friday, April 10th
AT the Brooklyn Nets
What to Watch: The Nets rival the Hornets in the “contagiously painful to watch” teams. They play at the 7th slowest pace in the league, and their colors and arena make it feel even slower.
Thus, let’s take this opportunity to talk about watching the Eastern Conference as a whole. In case you haven’t noticed, crazy things have been happening. About 7-10 days ago, the Raptors and Bulls were battling it out for the 3rd seed, the Bulls had dropped to 4th (yay!), the Heat were firmly locked in the 7 spot (LeBron vs. Wade and Miami in round one!), and the Wizards were a 100% lock to be in fifth.
Today? The Celtics would be in the 8th spot if the playoffs started today (Brad Stevens Effect!), the Heat would be out, the Raptors have fallen behind the Bulls again (noo!), and the boring Nets would be getting swept by the Cavs. Which bring us to…
Key matchup: Wizards vs. Raptors for home court.
Yup, home court is back in the picture! Don’t start praying for the Bulls too soon. With the Raptors in the midst of an extended post All-Star swoon, the Wizards are suddenly back on the Raptor’s heels battling for the 4-spot in the Eastern Conference. Admittedly, the Verizon Center doesn’t exactly scream “deafening crowd” or “tremendous energy.” The Verizon Center doesn’t actually really scream at all. BUT the Toronto crowd does! So avoiding their home court advantage might just be a huge indirect home court advantage. Winning this Brooklyn team could go a long way toward doing just that.
X-factor: Streaking Nets. The Nets have pushed their way into the seven slot by winning eight of their last ten games entering this week. How? Brook Lopez.
Brook Lopez last 10 games: 25.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.6 blocks, 61% FG.
Those are the kind of numbers that make Brook Lopez so confounding. He goes through stretches of offensive dominance that makes him impossible to trade, or impossible NOT to try to trade for, but definitely overpaid. The potential is scary. When he lives up to the potential, the Nets are a different team, an 8-2 team and legitimate threat to beat any team on any night. Right now, Brook Lopez is in one of those stretches. Let’s hope it ends soon (like it usually does).
Fun factor(s): Deron Williams. Remember when he used to be good?! Hahaha. Good times.
Prediction: Wizards win 5th straight and get all Wizards fans hopes up again for hosting a round one playoff series, right before destroying that hope in the most #SoWizards of ways.
Sunday, April 12th
HOME vs. the Atlanta Hawks
What to Watch: The last home game of the regular season. In honor of the final home game, let’s look at some Wizards Home Stats heading into the post season:
· Home Record: 28-12
· Points per game at Verizon Center: 102.2 (94.4 on road).
· Assists per game at Verizon Center: 25.2 (22.5 on road).
· Nine Successful Free Chick-Fil-A Giveaways (I made this up).
We know the Wizards are better at home than on the road. They will need to be at their best in this game, as the “best” team in the Eastern Conference comes to town. The Hawks boast a 57-19 record coming into this week, and the league’s second best point differential of +5.4. A win in this one will be tough, but it would also be huge.
Key matchup: Hawks vs. themselves.
Why is “best” in quotes above? Because the Hawks haven’t been playing all that great recently. This technically the same Hawks team that took the Wizards to the woodshed earlier this season, but they’ve been looking very different. They are just 14-8 since the All-Star break, and 5-5 in their last 10 games. Kyle Korver has shot just 45% from three in the last ten, Teague has only scored 13 ppg, and Horford hasn’t looked as active and energetic as earlier in the year. None of this should be a huge concern for Hawks fans. They’ve been locked in to the 1-seed for weeks, so a let down isn’t a big surprise.
This makes the Hawks ripe for the Wizards taking. If the Wizards can explode of the gate, and get an early lead on a traveling Hawks team, they could get Atlanta out of the game early.
X-factor: Gregg Popovich. Mike Budenholzer is a Popovich disciple, and we all know the premium Pop puts on rest. Well, as we just said, the Hawks are locked in to the 1-seed. Playoff seeding set. Road game. Regular season winding down. This might be one of those games where the Hawks decide to rest guys even before tip-off. I’d complain as a fan of good basketball. But as a Wizards fan, I’d take it!
Fun factor(s): #FreeOtto!! This won’t just be the Wizards last regular season home game. This will also be the Wizards first game back home since Otto helped beat the Grizzlies, and hopefully continued showing out against the Sixers and Nets. The crowd eruption he is going to get when he gets in the game is going to be great, and when he scores it will be pandemonium (as opposed to Beal related Panda-monium). If you’re watching on TV, enjoy it. If you’re at the game, take part in it!
Prediction: Hawks rest, either consciously or subconsciously. Wizards take advantage for the win.