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Wizards vs. Wolves game preview: Ain’t no love in the heart of the city

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Minnesota (7-4) at Washington (2-7)

November 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
TV: CSN Washington
Radio: 106.7FM The Fan

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Projected starting lineups:

Washington Wizards
C- Marcin Gortat, PF- Nene, SF- Martell Webster, SG- Bradley Beal, PG- John Wall

Minnesota Timberwolves
C– Nikola Pekovic, PF- Kevin Love, SF- Corey Brewer, SG- Kevin Martin, PG- Ricky Rubio

Key matchup:

John Wall v. Ricky Rubio

Ricky-Rubio-bota-balon-John-Wall

Although both guys are having their fair share of ups and downs in this season — mostly downs — it is an exciting matchup nonetheless. The Wizards had a chance to draft Rubio when he came out, and that would still have likely resulted in him staying overseas before ever suiting up for Washington. They ended up getting their PG in John Wall but the idea of trading that top 5 pick for Randy Foye and Mike Miller still brings back painful memories for Wizards fans. I am not implying that the fans are having buyers remorse in getting Wall (at that point they had no choice but to draft him at the number one spot unless they traded down) but an electrifying performance tonight by Rubio and a dud from Wall’s end will likely inspire some spur of the moment reflective tweets on the decisions that this franchise has made.

Much ado was made about nothing regarding Irving’s scintillating 41-point performance on Saturday that engulfed the “measly” nine points that Wall put up even though Wall’s existence and athletic influence is the only reason the Wizards even have a chance in certain games. Perhaps if Wall wasn’t forced to sit out moments of the game when other teams are mounting momentum-building comebacks, he could enjoy some of the sour fruits of his inconsistent labor — wins to be specific. I say sour because the effort is through the roof, but shooting 29% in his last 5 games is worrisome. We went from saying he would never be a star, to realizing his potential, to now wondering if he will ever develop a consistent offensive game. Sounds like a trip in Back to the Future. Let’s just hope Wall does his thing tonight. Johnny B. Goode. Johnny shoot well. Johnny find a way to stay in the game so that we don’t fall behind by 50.

Spotlight:

Washington Wizards head coach Wittman reacts in the second quarter of their NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York

#WittmanFace. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Wittman could have some more time to turn things around than expected considering that six of his first eight games were on the road. According to Randy Wittman, job security is not a worry of his. Mike Shanahan might lose his job before Randy. Anybody who watches the Wizards’ game and doesn’t have some irrational obsession with Randy Wittman knows that his rotations are suspect and he has no handle of how long to balance his first and second unit’s playing times. A loss at home to a very good Timberwolves team (when is the last time you heard that about the Timberwolves?) might not be as bad as it sounds in terms of expected outcomes, but if the Wizards find themselves down big or losing a big lead then I don’t see how that helps Wittman’s chances. The Wizards need to play competitive basketball and Wittman can’t afford to have another collapse like he did against the Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving isn’t walking through that visiting locker room, but a guy named Kevin Love is. Good luck.

[ Sidenote ]: I wish Randy Wittman’s last name was “Watson” so that everytime he made a head-scratching substitution I could stomp my foot and scream out “Sexual Chocolate!”

The X-factor:

3-point shooting and post play. The Wizards will need Martell Webster to shoot better from outside, and will need John Wall to force his inside game to free up the guys that we prefer to take the 3’s that he has been taking himself. The Wizards came out hot against the Cavs, but were ice cold down the stretch. Beal will hit his fair share and Wall will likely take his, but Martell needs to convert early and often to make the defense pay for any open shots they get. Nene and Gortat will be exerting enough effort on defense guarding Love and Pekovic that they need it to be made easy as possible for them on offense.

What happened last time they played?

A cocktail of confusion and anger covered the faces of all Wizards’ fans. The Wizards committed 24 turnovers, most of them costly ones from John Wall late in the game. The Wizards were missing Beal but the Timberwolves were missing reserves and their starting frontcourt. The Wizards lost 82-87.

Who’s hurt?

Al Harrington remains out with a knee injury. Trevor Ariza continues to nurse his strained right hammy. Shabazz Muhammad remains out with an ankle injury.

Outlook:

I’m going to make this short and sweet. Kevin Martin is averaging over 22 ppg a game against the Wizards, which is his second-best average against any team. Pekovic is a brute savage that will likely destroy the boards tonight and give the Timberwolves the edge in that department. The Timberwolves are 3rd in the league in points per game. The Wolves are 2nd in the NBA in shots attempted and made within 5 feet from the basket. The Wizards shoot the 3-ball better than Minnesota but are behind in nearly every other category. If the Wizards want to stand a chance in this game they will have to be on fire NBA Jam style from behind the arc. I’d hope Beal and Webster do their best Harold Miner and Glen Rice impression, but there is another guy on the opposing team that can stroke it with the best of them from downtown. His name is Kevin and he can post-up, hit the 3, and pull down 20 boards on any given night, and we don’t have anyone as good as him in D.C. Ain’t no love in the heart of the city.

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