Another game, another heartbreaker. Can the Washington Wizards finally catch a break and rebound from their overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks? We'll find out when the team travels to Orlando to take on the streaking Magic in the second game of yet another back to back.
Where and When? Tip off is at 7 p.m. EST in Orlando.
Why Should I Care? Because Washington could learn a thing or two from Orlando. The Magic are arguably the least talented NBA team since the Charlotte Bobcats debuted, and yet their current three game winning streak has them at 11-13 on the year. Not too shabby.
Are They Good? Not really, but again, they're getting the most out of what little talent they have. If you go by Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Orlando only has three rotation players who would be considered even slightly above average players, and one of them is Glen Davis. Jameer Nelson, J.J. Reddick, and Arron Afflalo are the only other players on the team that all but the most hardcore NBA fans will be able to recognize. Despite the team's lack of ball handlers and shot creators, it finds itself only one game out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Who's Out? Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington are out indefinitely for Orlando, while the Wizards will be without John Wall, A.J. Price, Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker.
What Are They Good At? Playing good defense while not fouling. Orlando's defense is currently ranked seventh in the NBA in points allowed per possession. The team's lack of a long, mobile frontcourt player has made Orlando vulnerable to quick ball handlers, but the defense is otherwise very good. MySynergySports.com has Orlando ranked third in the NBA in points per possession allowed against post ups, fourth against players coming off of screens, and second against spot up shooters, and eighth against pick and roll dive men. They've managed to pull this off due to smart defenders like Afflalo and Davis who never gamble and excel at cutting off dribble penetration.
What Are They Bad At? Orlando's offense is the NBA's second worst on a per possession basis this year, and it's easy to see why: no one can break down a defense. Point guard Nelson is a quick little guy with an underrated handle, but even at his best, he was never a good enough playmaker to be his team's primary option. As a result, Orlando has been forced to make Davis a primary offensive weapon, and the results have been bad. Davis uses a greater proportion of the Magic's possessions than any other player on the roster, and yet he's averaging only about 18 points and two assists per 36 minutes this year while shooting terribly from the floor. That's fine when you're playing with three of four Hall of Famers, not so much when you're the team's leading scorer.
How Well Do the Wizards Match Up With Them? Pretty well, and you could even make the case that Afflalo is the only Orlando starter who will be better than his Washington counterpart. Crawford actually has a decent post game against little guards like Nelson, plus he's going to be able to shoot over him at will, so he could have another big night. Seraphin should struggle to back down Davis in the post and will inevitably get called for at least one charge on him tonight, although he should have no trouble getting clean looks when he shoots. Beal could also surprise people a bit, as Afflalo has lost some of his defensive moxy as he's grown into a more prominent offensive role.
Is There Anyone Wizards Fans Should Keep An Eye On? Power forward Andrew Nicholson has been really good on both sides of the ball this year. The 19th pick in the 2012 draft has a high skill level and the ability to score with his back to the basket or facing up. He's old for a rookie at 23 years old, but if he can maintain his current production levels, he could wind up being sort of a poor man's Elton Brand.