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Wizards vs. 76ers game preview: Play your studs

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Regular season game #2
Philadelphia 76ers (1-0) at Washington Wizards (0-1)
November 1, 2013
Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan

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Projected starting lineups:

Washington Wizards
C- Nene (if injured, expect Gortat to slide into this spot)
PF- Trevor Booker (if Nene plays, Gortat starting PF makes too much sense to actually happen)
SF- Trevor Ariza – SG- Bradley Beal – PG- John Wall

Philadelphia 76ers
C- Spencer Hawes, PF- Thaddeus Young, SF- Evan Turner, SG- James Anderson, PG- Michael Carter-Williams

Key matchup:

John Wall v. Michael Carter-Williams

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Let’s be honest. We all thought John Wall was going to come out looking like he had something to prove. He did look like he was trying to prove he could shoot the ball, and well, he didn’t prove it. There were some highlights in Wall’s game, namely the 11 dimes he dished out. He also scored 20 points. However, he shot 38% from the field and only had two rebounds in a game where Washington needed some help on the glass. Lastly, he gave up 19 points to Will Bynum, most of them at inopportune moments of the game. In hindsight, he did start aggressively attacking the hoop later in the contest, which should be his blueprint for tonight.
Tonight he goes up against a rookie who arguably had a better statistical game than John Wall has ever had his whole career. Then again, a similar performance hasn’t been accomplished in the last thirty years. Carter Williams, who posted a 22-7-12-9 (pts-asts-rebs-stls) game against the vaunted Miami Heat, looks to show the world that the ensuing hype is real. Wall and Carter-Williams hold many similarities in their game. Their heights don’t prototypically fit the point guard position at 6’4 and 6’6 respectively. Both are not known as great shooters but are a nightmare for opposing defenses in the open-court.

Spotlight:

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Trevor Ariza. Who exactly is Trevor Ariza? I would ask Randy Wittman but based on his Otto Porter response, he doesn’t seem to know anybody. Trevor Ariza is a very likable, but somewhat confusing player. Some remember Trevor Ariza as the clutch, play-making and momentum changing defensive stopper that made big plays for the Lakers. Others know him as the horribly inefficient player for the Rockets and Hornets that compiled one of the worst shooting seasons ever.
As a Wizard, Ariza has been a mixed bag. He was outplayed by Martell Webster last year for the starting spot, but played well off the bench after the All-Star break. Defensively, he has prided himself on taking on the best player from the opposing team, if that player is a 4, 3, or even a 2. We were all a little confused when he “won” the starting spot in the offseason, but guess who showed up big on opening night? Ariza displayed his vintage 2008-2009 stroke from downtown against the Pistons and kept the Wizards within striking distance all game. Ironically, when Webster and Ariza play at the same time for the Wizards, it’s the best feasible lineup they can offensively have. That combination in the lineup outscores opponents by 11.9 points per 100 possessions. My point is, Trevor Ariza might be more important than we initially thought. If Martell Webster can recreate last year’s magic from his bench role, and get the consistent production from Ariza, then they basically hit the jackpot twice.

Tonight we will see one of three things from Trevor Ariza. Either he dominates like he did the last time around, has a somewhat productive game, or he is utterly inefficient and painful to watch. What’s your money on? Who exactly is Trevor Ariza?

The X-factor:

Las Vegas. No really, Las Vegas. The Wizards opened as 10 point favorites! I’m curious to see when the last time that happened was. All jokes aside, I think this one comes down to bench scoring. The Wizards got a majority of their scoring last game from their starters, nearly 80% of it to be exact. The Pistons got almost the same amount of scoring from their bench last game, and they beat the Wizards by 9. The Sixers got fewer bench points in their opener than the Pistons and Wizards had against each other. The Sixers just beat the Heat. Don’t you love how I make this so simple?.

What happened last time they played?

The Wizards lost (those first three words are a growing trend in this section) at home 97-86. They didn’t get much help for John Wall in this game, who scored 24 points to go with 7 assists. The Wizards as a team shot 7% from downtown, only hitting 1 of the 13 threes they attempted. The 76ers had a more balanced attack with five guys in double figures. Cartier Martin and Garrett Temple started in this game, so it is very likely other players were injured. However, with Randy Wittman you never know.

Who’s hurt?

For the Wizards, Nene confirms that he indeed is made of silly putty. There is no confirmation on whether he starts or even plays at all tonight. Nerlens Noel is out for the season.

Outlook:

If the Wizards win this one by a large margin, I’ll be happily surprised. Considering they’re 10-point favorites, that’s exactly what the odds makers want us to think is going to happen. Home openers are usually very exciting, no matter the team. The crowd should be raucous and the 76ers could come out flat after being on an emotional high after beating the defending two-time champs at home. The Wizards will need to jump on the 76ers early so that they can find the best shots for themselves without feeling like they have to play catch-up.

I think Wall has a much more efficient game and Beal puts up 20+. Nene was effective early in the last game but with his status up in the air, the Wizards will need others to step up. I should have touched on this in the X-factor portion of my preview, but for reasons beyond my understanding, Marcin Gortat played in limited minutes. In the minutes that Gortat did play, he grabbed a large percentage of the rebounds that were available to him, and he was the leading scorer off the bench. Randy Wittman needs to stop overthinking and just put his best product on the floor. Every week there is some sort of stat that points out some sort of elite Wizards lineup that has dominated the competition, and every game Wittman does something that is the complete opposite of that. When my Twitter feed has more logical and effective ideas for the lineup than the head coach, well, that’s very disappointing. When you’re a perennial bottom-feeder that is trying to reach for the playoffs, treat the game like fantasy football. Play your studs.

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