The Crystal Ball is a weekly Monday feature forecasting the future for the Wizards week ahead..
This week’s games:
February 24th, vs. Golden State Warriors
February 25th, at Minnesota Timberwolves
February 27th, at Philadelphia 76ers
February 28th, vs. Detroit Pistons
Lets go Wall !!
Tuesday, February 24
HOME vs. the Golden State Warriors
What to watch: The Golden State Warriors. They are the most entertaining team in the entire league, and have a record to lay claim to the title “Best team in basketball.” We saw what happened last time the Wizards played a good team. (If you’d like a masochistic reminder, click here). Stephen Curry has skills on the offensive end that have literally never been seen before (specifically, shooting 3s off the dribble as legitimately high percentage shots). Klay Thompson scored an NBA record 37 points IN A QUARTER (52 for the game) !!!!! Curry followed up a few nights later with 26 in a quarter (51 for the game). To put that in perspective, here is the list of 37 point GAMES the Wizards have had since Gilbert Arenas left:
- John Wall, January 16th, 2012: 38 points.
- John Wall, April 6th, 2013: 37 points.
- John Wall, November 2nd, 2013: 37 points.
- Bradley Beal, February 11th, 2014: 37 points.
- Trevor Ariza, March 1st, 2014: 40 points.
5 times. That’s the entire list. And here’s the list of 50 points games since Gilbert left:
(No results found)
The Splash Brothers can score, they score in bunches, and they score at will. But that’s not all!
The Warriors have two former All-Stars, Andre Iguodala and David Lee, coming off their bench. They have Leandro Barbosa off their bench. They have Shaun Livingston off their bench. For all the Wizards fans fantasizing about having depth, the Warriors will be in DC rubbing your fantasy in your face.
The Wizards struggles this season against teams with winning records are well chronicled. The Warriors have the best record in the NBA.
So how can the Wizards win? A supernatural combination of effort, luck, and home cooking. Every player on the floor for Washington will need to be going full tilt for 48 minutes (because Draymond Green definitely will be). If they can outwork the Warriors, the Wizards can manage enough offensive rebounds, second chance points, loose balls, forced turnovers, and fast break points to keep things competitive. If they are fortunate enough to experience an off night – or a DNP – from Steph and Klay (something like 30% shooting or less), the can stay close. And if The Phone Booth gets wild and provides that extra jolt of energy to add an extra inch to John Walls vertical or swing a block-charge call in the Wizards favor, they just might be able to steal this one.
Key match-up: The Splash Brothers vs. Reality.
Reality has been losing this matchup almost every night, all season long. Honestly, reality started losing its edge sometime last year, when it became clear Steph curry really CAN make those shots every night, and Klay’s release really is that quick. This year, it’s been more of a massacre than a real competition. They’ve been unreal. At home. On the road. At the All-Star game. There’s a 95 percent chance you spend portions of this game shaking your head and your arms tossed in the air dejectedly, saying to your friends, “what the hell was that?…seriously?!” If not, maybe you’ll be cheering a Wizards win!
X-factor (s): The Warriors defense. A lot of attention has been given to the Splash Brothers, and the Warriors potent offense, and rightfully so. They lead the league in scoring at 110.6 points per game. But take a look at their defensive ranks:
1st in Opponent FG%: 42 percent
4th in Opponent 3FG%: 33 percent
1st in Defensive Efficiency
Their defense is no joke. Their defense is great, and their defense is the reason they’re a legit title contender. How are they so good? First, personnel. Klay Thompson is an excellent perimeter defender, and he accepts the challenge of guarding opposing star point guards night after night, even while doing what he does on offense. Andrew Bogut is a great rim protector and defensive anchor. Even when Bogut is out, the D is good. But with him, they are arguably the best in the league. And then there’s Draymond Green. The individual x-factor. Green is quick enough to guard on the perimeter, and strong enough, and smart enough, to play power forwards and centers inside. What he lacks in size and athleticism, he makes up for with positioning, timing, and veteran savvy. He’s also a GREAT communicator, a vital component to any great defense. That leads to the second factor that makes the Warriors defense great:
The Warriors talk and communicate on defense as well as anyone. Watch (and listen) to Green constantly talking and letting his teammates know what’s coming. He’s not the only one. As a result, the Warriors rotations are on time, and in unison. You will rarely see an individual badly out of position, and if you watch the defense as a whole, you will see that the entire group moves together. When the Warriors do get beat for an easy basket, it’s usually with excellent offensive execution. In the rare case of a blown assignment, you won’t see any of this:
Instead, you’ll see the players address it, someone take responsibility, and you probably won’t see the same mistake again.
Steve Kerr is a blessed man. He inherited talented players who are also coachable (and who were already well coached by Mark Jackson). And to think, he almost ended up coaching the Knicks. He literally may have saved himself 5-10 years of life by making the choice he did.
Fun factor: The Degree Battle of the Game Changers, part 2!! Wall and Curry face off again, but this time, we expect it to be at least a little more applicable to actual basketball. Granted, Leandro Barbosa isn’t much better defensively than Michael Rappaport, and I could definitely see Steph Curry end up shooting from the ground after getting knocked down somehow, but still. This should turn in to a tremendous matchup to watch. Look for Wall to exert a ton of energy on defense, knowing that neutralizing Curry will be the most important contribution he can make to a Wizards win. If Wall can match his typical offensive impact, and simultaneously keep Curry somewhat in check, consider it another step up in Wall’s greatness.
Prediction: In case you couldn’t tell, I’m not really optimistic about this game. I have no doubt the Wizards will come out focused, energized, and with something to prove. But the Warriors are the best team in NBA right now. Their A game leads to blowout wins. Their B game wins by double digits. Their C games end in close wins. And their D game almost never shows up. Eff. Warriors win big.
Wednesday, February 25th
AT the Minnesota Timberwolves
What to Watch: The Wizards versus a team with a losing record! Our favorite! But the Wolves just pulled off a blockbuster deal, acquiring a 15-time All-Star, championship winning, MVP power forward with career averages of 18 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists. Inserting Kevin Garnett back into the lineup makes the Wolves an instant contender. What? It’s not 2006? Oh…
Kevin Garnett, in a previous stint with the Wolves, dunking in front of former Bullet Ledell Eackles
Well, KG is indeed back, but in a new role. The Wolves will just hope for some leadership and hope that KG’s psychotic intensity is contagious, before he rides off into the ice cold snowy Minnesota sunset.
The Wizards shouldn’t have any trouble with the Wolves. Nene and Gortat should dominate Minnesota inside, and the Wolves don’t have a player on the roster with a prayer of guarding John Wall. The only way the Wizards will have trouble in this game is if they play like they shouldn’t have any trouble in this game.
Key matchup: Minnesota’s winter vs DC’s winter. I don’t care if this isn’t at all about basketball. It’s been freakin’ FREEZING this year. How can it be possible to be significantly colder than I’ve been this winter and still be a) satisfied with your life. And b) alive?!
Average February Temperature in Minnesota: 13 degrees
Average February Temperature in DC: 31 degrees
MY GOD! It’s been TWENTY DEGREES COLDER there!! If you live in Minnesota and aren’t actively trying to move, you’re either crazy or an Eskimo.
X-factor: KG’s psychotic intensity. Here are Andrew Wiggins splits by month for his rookie season:
October: 7.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists
November: 12.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists
December: 14.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists
January: 19.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists
February: 14.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists
Andrew Wiggins is trending upward and fast. But watch the kid play. He plays easy. Never looks like he’s exerting a ton of energy. Never looks like he’s going too fast. Never looks like he wants to destroy your soul, even while he’s in the process of destroying your soul. Russell Westbrook plays like he wants his opponents (and the rim) to collapse in a pile of dust when he’s through with them. Andrew Wiggins plays like he has some sympathy.
Here’s my theory. I think the Wolves brought back KG hoping that he could somehow transmit some of his psychotic intensity to Wiggins. I think they’ve been watching Wiggins and thinking “holy crap. If that guy ever decides he wants to absolutely DESTROY people, he will actually start absolutely DESTROYING people!”
If even 1% of that transmission has already been successful, watch out.
Fun factor(s): Remember this?!
Well, he’s in this game. And so is Ricky Rubio! Between Rubio’s passing, LaVine’s jumping, Wiggins becoming Wiggins, and Gorgui Dieng sucking at dunking, there’s a lot to like on Minnesota. Not the basketball itself obviously. But everything else.
Prediction: Wizards win by 10+. Wizards fans spend the next day talking about Wiggins, Rubio, and LaVine.
Friday, February 27th
AT the Philadelphia 76ers
What to Watch: The Sixers are terrible. But they do have a few players that make this game interesting. 2013-2014 rookie of the year Michael Carter Williams has a lot of talent, and will look to be measuring himself against John Wall…oh…never mind. MCW was traded last Thursday. Fear not! The Sixers still have Rookie KJ Mcdaniels, who has flashed signs of being a legitimate building block, along with being a certified human highlight reel. Oh…apparently he was also traded on Thursday. Well at last the Sixers got a blue chipper back with all their deals to build around for the future. They didn’t?!?! WTF ARE THE SIXERS DOING?! Let’s just move on.
Key matchup: NBA basketball vs. pickup basketball. This game is going to require a tremendous amount of discipline, for both the Wizards fans, and the Wizards themselves. There is nothing more difficult as a competitor than playing against an opponent who provides no competition. The Sixers were performing as a truly competent NBA team prior to the trade deadline. Obviously, this angered management and affected their tanking agenda.
As a result, the Wizards will take the floor against a team composed of only 20-30% actual NBA caliber players. It’s like a College team playing a high school team. Or like Kentucky playing a college team. Beware of the Wizards playing with little focus, little discipline, poor defense, and sloppy execution. And beware of your own sanity, as you sit in front of your TV, literally tearing your hair out, and wondering how on earth the Wizards are down 5 in the 4th quarter to the 76ers.
X-factor: 3-point shooting. Sixers head coach Brett Brown has a very unique policy. Any player can shoot 3s, as long as they are practicing their shooting. It doesn’t matter if they are good 3-point shooters or not. If you work on the shot enough in practice, and make enough, you have the green light to shoot in the game. As a result, the Sixers have some of the most random and volatile 3-point shooting in the league. You never know who’s going to shoot, who’s going to make, and who’s going to catch fire. You just don’t know. (As a fan, you literally don’t know, as in you have seriously never seen or heard of anyone on the Sixers roster). If you do in fact end up tearing your hair out or committing some type of significant property damage, this is probably why.
Fun factor: JAVALE MCGEE!!! Woo! What Wizards fan doesn’t love to watch Javale McGee Shaqtin-a-fool all over the court and laugh at whoever’s paying him. Oh, the joy of reminiscing about the good ‘ol days, when some of us actually said things like “he’s talented” and “when he develops a touch around the rim” or “when he develops a post game.” (Sigh). Oh Javale, what will you do next? Will you dive into the stands to kiss an old lady? Will you score on the wrong basket? Will you block your own teammates shot? We never know. You always keep us guessing. We love you Javale. We don’t miss you, but we love you!
Prediction: Wizards win, but only after numerous lamps, phones, and remotes are hurled across rooms, out windows, and off balconies all over DC. Javale McGee forgets which team he plays for, takes 4 possessions to make a decision, then goes and sits on the Wizards bench when he sees Nene check in the game.
Saturday, February 28th
HOME vs. the Detroit Pistons
What to Watch: The Wizards just played the Pistons a week ago, and not a lot has changed since in terms of personnel or philosophy. However, Reggie Jackson is likely to look significantly different in terms of aggression. The last time these two teams played, Jackson was a brand new Piston. He was still feeling his way, and not trying to disrupt the chemistry and recent flow the Pistons had established. By now, that introductory phase will be over. Stan Van Gundy will have had the conversations telling Jackson to “be aggressive” and “we need you to score, that’s why we brought you here.” Look for Jackson’s game to appear significantly different despite just seeing him 6 days ago.
Key matchup: Wizards vs. fatigue. This will be the Wizards fourth game in five nights. They will be exhausted in both body and mind. They will need a strong home crowd, and a good start, to win this game.
X-factor: Ramon Sessions. Ramon Sessions was brought to the Wizards for this type of game. Long week. Weak legs. The Wizards will need an added spark and extended minutes from the bench. They will need scoring, energy on defense and on the break, and someone to help carry the load against a solid Detroit team. At one time, Ramon Sessions was a young, promising, rim attacking point guard like Reggie Jackson. Let’s see if tonight against Reggie Jackson he can find the fountain of youth.
Fun factor: Frustrating Reggie Jackson. Jackson was extremely happy to get traded. Look at his tweet!
Crying tears of joy #godisgreat
— Reggie Jackson (@rjOKCson_15) February 19, 2015
Has anyone ever been that happy to move to Detroit?! Obviously, Jackson wanted out of OKC, feeling that his talents weren’t being utilized, and that he could be a star somewhere else. Well now he’s got his chance. Six days ago, he was trying to fit in. On this night, he’ll be trying to prove to John Wall that there’s a new star in the East. Most likely, he’ll be trying to hard, and Wall will wreck him. So let’s make the most of it! Serenade him with chants of “air ball” and “overrated” at every opportunity. He’s shown in OKC he can be fussy and temperamental. This could be a great chance to bring it out of him. Let’s do our best!
Prediction: Sessions and the bench provide just enough help for the Wizards to squeak out a win.