So this is it. Here is the game us Wizards fans have circled on the calendar as the one that will finally end the embarrassing road losing streak. It's the Cleveland Cavaliers, recent losers of 26 games in a row and arguably the one team that is very clearly as talent-deficient as the Wizards.
But this is the NBA, and that means any team can be a challenge. As it turns out, Cleveland has actually played a lot better recently. The Wizards like to say that they're making progress because when they lose on the road, they lose because they fall short at the end after being competitive the whole game. Well, if that's true (which I don't think it is), the same could be said about Cleveland. All five of the games they lost before their win over the Clippers on Friday were by 10 points or less. They were right there on the road against Dallas and Memphis, as well as at home against Portland, but fell short in the end. Eventually, the law of averages kicked in and they got a tight win against the Clippers on Friday.
So Cleveland is playing a lot better now. The other thing that helped on Friday was the return of Mo Williams, who missed 13 of those 26 losses with a left hip flexor strain. Williams isn't great, but he's an NBA-caliber player, whereas his replacements were not. That upgrade helps. J.J. Hickson, though inconsistent, was also a monster on Friday, outplaying Blake Griffin in every way. Throw in some decent shooters, a decent defense and, of course, Antawn Jamison (great Wise column on the guy here, by the way), and Cleveland is no pushover. Nobody in this league is.
So what has to happen for the Wizards to win a damn road game? Lots of things, but maybe they should start by heeding the advice of others. Michael Katz had a great article for SB Nation D.C. today where he talked to Wizards opponents about how you win on the road. I thought Gregg Popovich's quote was the best.
"In the NBA, some people are more competitive than others. I think the more competitive people you can put together, the more every game is important in the end, whether it's road, home, back-to-back or whatever it might be."
It's pretty elementary, but it's true. I'd rather see them yell at each other than slink around listlessly. Hopefully, they take some collective pride tonight, even if it means sometimes taking it out on each other.