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Wizards vs. Cavs Pregame: A National Litmus Test

Regular Season Game 51

Cavs (34-15) at Wizards (30-20)

February 6, 2017 at 7:00 PM
Verizon Center | Washington, DC
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 1500 AM

Last time they met was..

November 11, 2016- Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland: Cavs 105, Wizards 94
RECAP: Cavs Upend Wizards 105-94 Via 3-Point Barrage

What to watch (by Joe Glorioso):

18 in a row is too much to ask, right?

Pick a storyline.

  • Game moved to TNT because the NBA realizes it screwed up by not putting the Wizards in more nationally televised games.
  • John Wall vs. Kyrie. Kyrie Irving, who just had a puff piece written on him by GQ Magazine saying he’s one of the most underrated guards in the league. Because he doesn’t get enough attention??

  • LeBron James is in town. That means lots of 23 jerseys, and lots of Wizards fans who can’t stand him will be making noise during all parts of the game.
  • Did we mention there is a 17 game win streak going right now?

And if none of that tickles your fancy then perhaps you could just enjoy really good basketball which you will absolutely get tonight. This young Wizards team is playing for each other right now and it’s making for an entertaining brand of basketball. We’re just happy that TNT was smart enough to let folks outside of the DMV see how good Wall, Beal, Gortat and the #WizSquad really is.

Key Matchup (by Shaun Ahmad):

A Clash of Guards.


It’s been well noted that the last time the Cleveland Cavaliers played Washington, the Wizards were a very different team. However, as bad as the Wizards were playing early in the season, Wall had an excellent scoring output with 28 points on 50% shooting in the loss. For the Wizards to be successful tonight, he will have to be better all-around, similar to the way he’s been playing during one of their best runs in recent memory.

Wall will have to make the hobbled Kyrie Irving work on defense to contain him. Settling for jumpers will play into Irving’s hands. Wall averaged 11 assists in January and is coming off of a four-game stretch in which he’s dished out 13, 11, 13, and 19 dimes. He has been able to maintain a balance in scoring 24, 33, 15, and 18 during the same stretch. More of the same will be necessary.

If Wall can manage to fatigue Irving – who isn’t terrific defensively to begin with – by keeping him off balance, it will help to neutralize Irving’s effectiveness on the offensive end. With the well chronicled troubles the Cavs have had this season in finding consistent productivity outside of Irving and LeBron James, taking away the punch of Irving will go a long way in the Wizards extending their very impressive 17-game home winning streak.

On the flipside, for the Cavs to win this game, Irving will need to modify his game from an elite scorer to an efficient distributor. If Irving tries to drop 30 on Wall, he could, but it won’t be very effective as Wall is no slouch on defense. It will require way more field goal attempts than an unbalanced team like Cleveland would want, especially going up against a strong rebounding team like Washington that can get out in transition in a blink of an eye. In their most impressive win in a while, Cleveland routed Minnesota 125-97, helped largely by Irving’s 14 assists. By involving the supporting cast, LeBron James will be relieved of the scoring burden and will have a better chance of being effective in a fourth quarter takeover.

If Irving can get to the 20 point mark with 50% shooting and double digit assists, the Cavs are likely to be on the winning side. If Wall can attack Irving from the very beginning while maintaining the efficiency that he has had, the Cavs will be in trouble.

X-Factor (by Michael Marzzacco):


Back in November the Wizards were 3-9 and all of us were depressed. Not anymore. If there’s any team in the NBA with the most momentum it’s the Wizards. They’re riding a home winning streak of 17 games. No team has won this many games in a row at home since the Warriors did last season. Overall, the Wizards come into this game having won seven in a row. If they win tonight, it would be the first time the Wizards won eight consecutive games since the Michael Jordan era back in 2001.

Their game on Saturday could’ve easily been a trap game. Not taking anything away from Anthony Davis and the Pelicans but the Wizards did a great job in the fourth quarter focusing on that game before turning their attention to tonight. Trailing 91-90, the Wizards closed the game out on a 15-0 run. I should mention that run happened for NEARLY SIX MINUTES.

Okay back to the present. This is only the sixth day of February but it’s gonna feel like April or May. On paper before the season, the Wizards weren’t supposed to be this good. Tonight they get a chance to show the NBA and the rest of the world that they’re legit. No better time to show up than when the defending champs come to town. The road to the finals will go through Cleveland. If the Wizards continue to roll and get through the first couple rounds of postseason play, they will have to face the Cavaliers who have the best player in the world, Lebron James. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.

Fun Factor (by Jamal Smith):

We’re in the middle of the NBA regular season, which generally means LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers are bored. James and some other players, I assume, are getting some nights of rest, Kyrie Irving still has the most unkempt, but still lined up beard, and Anderson Varejao – fresh off getting booted for a varsity starter – is probably hanging out in the Quicken Loans Arena parking lot.

But most notably, James has made waves for saying he needs help. Right. An “aging” future Hall of Famer feels that while his hairline is getting stronger, his legs don’t have the same bounce. He feels different. His body’s different. While Cleveland’s front office continues to parade Kevin Love on Center Street like a floosy, they’re ignoring some guys who are deserving of a shot.

Let’s talk about some under-the-radar guys who Cleveland should have their eyes on:

Drew Gooden

Fit – 9/10

Contribution – 2/10

Likelihood – 1/10

Drew Gooden had a second career life in Washington after being jettisoned from Cleveland years ago. At his prime with the Cavs, he was in the rotation of the biggest group of bammas that any NBA team has seen. I mean, Drew had a nasty patch of hair and a stiff jumper. I hated everything about him all the way down to his headband.

Gooden won’t help this team, but I’m sure he’d be a crowd favorite.

Baron Davis

Fit – 7/10

Contribution – 5/10

Likelihood – 7/10

B-Diddy has spent the last several years being his own biggest advocate for returning to the league. He made his rounds in the media, including random TV appearances, the podcast circuit, and even radio. And based on the fact that I had to Google Cleveland’s roster to find out who their backup point guard is mean they Baron deserves a roster spot.

Plus, Kyrie’s hair is still perplexing. His hairline is aggressive and its texture is like one water balloon away from going Durant. Remember Baron had that wet curl? Exactly. That’s mentorship for Kyrie that won’t show up in the box score.

Ricky Davis

Fit – 1/10

Contribution – 1/10

Likelihood – 1/10

Look, I couldn’t tell you where Ricky Davis ended his career. I have no idea if he tried a comeback. I do know, however, that he looks like the type of guy who would fight inside of Buffalo Wild Wings.

Here’s how he’d help Cleveland: he’s mercurial. Remember how J.R. Smith got all subdued when he got to Cleveland, but then he went shirtless for like a month after they won the title? Why not infuse Ricky – who manufactured his own triple double when he played for the Cavs – with J.R. just to see how many headlines they’d make together? I see a lot of poor shots, eyelid tattoos, and pipes in their future together.

Of course, none of these names will matter, as it’s rumored that Cleveland has its focus on cement-footed Andrew Bogut if he’s bought out by the Mavericks. Think outside the box, guys.


Jamal: Washington’s home win streak isn’t a fluke. With the team expected to be buoyed by what’s sure to be a raucous crowd, I expect the Wizards to dispatch a shorthanded Cavaliers team.


101-91 Wizards

Joe: My heart: Wizards 113 Cavs 107. My head: Wizards 102 Cavs 109

Michael: John Wall goes off in the biggest game of his career, dropping (at least) 40 points and outscoring Lebron. Wizards win a close and exciting contest that will feel like a playoff game.

Shaun: Look for Washington to settle in some time during the second quarter and pull away from the Cavs in the fourth quarter after a back and forth second half. Wall goes for 25 points and 14 assists in a statement game on a national television stage. Wizards streak extends to 18, and they become serious contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Hoop District Staff

Collaborative efforts from the Hoop District Staff.

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