The Washington Wizards have been on the road for what feels like weeks, tonight they’re in Boston to face the Celtics. The Wizards 6-6 record fits them perfectly at the moment, they’ve been anything but consistent through the first 12 contests. Boston is in a similar place, they’re a game over .500 which is a positive, but they had to rally to beat the winless Philadelphia 76ers. Thus turning that into a huge negative, both teams have struggled with turnovers and defense to this point. Tonight it’ll simply be a case of who takes care of the ball better, whether it be Boston or Washington.
All-Star floor general John Wall has struggled to find his game this season, through turnovers and his shooting. He and backcourt mate Bradley Beal struggled mightily against the Hornets after starting off well. The Wizards literally go as those two go, they are the barometer for how well the team performs. One of the positives as of late has been the second unit, Gary Neal has been on fire the last two contests. Nene has been great as the center in Washington’s small-ball lineup, that’s the unit that has had the most success for Washington as of late. Jared Dudley hasn’t scored a ton, but he’s been a vital piece to that unit and it seems as if he’s starting to get into the swing of things offensively. Marcin Gortat was extremely active and effective against Charlotte, but it was almost exclusively on the offensive end.
While it’s still very early in the season, there needs to be a sense of urgency for the Wizards. This year’s Eastern Conference isn’t the same as the past few years, it appears to be more competitive and sitting at .500 isn’t doing Washington any good. The Wizards are 11th in the Eastern Conference and are sitting in third in the Southeast Division.
The Celtics have struggled with similar issues as well, there is little to no consistency. They mostly rally in every contest, which means they’re getting off to horrible starts and putting themselves in a hole. They too have issues to work out, in their last meeting with Washington their bigs wreaked havoc on the Wizards. Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger are both able to step out and hit the long ball, stretching the floor for their team and opposing defenses In their earlier matchup this season, Kelly came off the bench and had 19 points. Isaiah Thomas has to find that happy medium as well, he’s been a bit inconsistent this year as well. Guard Marcus Smart is still injured and is expected to remain out for several more weeks.
Keys to Victory
John Wall. It’s simple, the talented playmaker has to get back to the level of play that is expected from him. He’s one of the best floor generals in the league and his team needs him to be that right now. His current assist to turnover ratio is the worst of his career and his shooting percentage is the lowest it’s been since his rookie campaign. John has to get back to playing that graduate-level point guard that he is, if he can Washington should be able to right the ship.
Defense. Again, it’s cited over and over, but Washington needs to put together a game in which they play four consecutive quarters of good defense. They’ve only done so in spurts and it’s cost them. Against Charlotte on Wednesday night, Washington clamped down in the third quarter to take control of the game. In the fourth, that good defense was nowhere to be found and the Hornets rallied and never looked back.
Power forward. Washington has to find an answer, Kris Humphries may not be it in their starting lineup. While he’s worked tirelessly to extend his shooting range beyond the three point line, it’s feast or famine for him, no in-between. When he’s hitting from out there, it helps, when he’s not it’s as if he doesn’t know how to help the team on that end.
Rebound. With Washington struggling to shoot the ball, they must rebound. That’s extra possessions which certainly can’t hurt, but this is more than just the offensive glass. The Wizards give up many second chance points, they have to finish defensive possessions by securing the defensive rebound. The possession is not over until that point.
Defend screen-and-roll. Washington struggled with this mightily on Wednesday night when dealing with Kemba Walker, they would either double him or have the big give a hard hedge or sag back. Either way, the offensive player always felt in control in these situations. They face another diminutive guard in Isaiah Thomas tonight, with Sullinger and Olynyk that like to pop out beyond the arc, it’s vital that Washington defends those situations better.