It's been a rough couple of weeks for the Washington Wizards. It seems like only yesterday they were sitting pretty at .500 and a clear path to the playoffs in a terrible Eastern Conference. Now, with the team four games under .500 and tied with Chicago and Toronto for the seventh seed in the East, a sense of frustration seems to be setting in with both the team and the fans.
Where and when? The game is at 7:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden.
Are they good? Nope. New York is 7-16, although they've been more below average than awful. The Knicks have the point differential of a 9-14 team, and their defense, currently ranked 27th in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions in the NBA, will look a lot better once Tyson Chandler returns to the lineup. Meanwhile, their Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani-fueled offense has been OK, currently ranking 18th in the NBA in offensive rating.
More on the Knicks
More on the Knicks
Who's out? The Knicks are going to be missing Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton, while Kenyon Martin is questionable for tonight's game. The Wizards are going to be without Al Harrington and, unless we hear something this afternoon, Nene. Bradley Beal could very well suit up.
What are they good at? Taking care of the ball. New York is third in the NBA in turnover percentage largely because their offense tends to consist of Anthony isolations or jump shots by the team's spot up shooters. A typical New York offensive possession consists of a half-hearted attempt at a pick and roll, a Melo isolation, and then either a long two or a drive and kick by Melo. No one other than J.R. Smith is much of a threat to put the ball on the floor, although Tim Hardaway Jr. and Beno Udrih have had their moments, so the team is usually limited to settling for jump shots. No, they aren't terribly accurate, but at least they don't turn the ball over this way.
Even though they don't run the play very often, it should also be noted that Amar'e Stoudemire has turned himself into a reasonably good post player and can create shots off the bench at a decent rate. He's scoring only 16 points per 36 minutes this year with a poor free throw rate, but is shooting 56 percent from the floor, mostly against other teams' second units.
What are they bad at? Defense. Nothing in particular, just defense in general. Of the team's currently active players, only Shumpert could be classified as a particularly noteworthy defensive player, and even he's not going to be mistaken for Tony Allen any time soon. Anthony and Smith are indifferent defenders, Felton is usually out of shape and Bargnani is only any good in one-on-one matchups. The team doesn't seem to be terribly motivated and features a lot of aging veterans whose lateral quickness and explosiveness is declining every day.
What happens if the Wizards lose? A loss tonight would drop the Wizards out of the East's top eight and could have a couple of side effects. Yes, it's a long season, but the team hasn't been above panic moves in the past, and playing the starters for 40-plus minutes a night might become even more common if Washington continues to struggle. At the same time, Randy Wittman's job could get a lot less secure if the team doesn't finish December strong, and that could affect how much the players listen to him and how hard they play. Just as success tends to beget success in the NBA, failure tends to beget failure, and the Wizards' could use some positive momentum.
Who's going to win? New York has been playing better than normal lately but I still think the Wizards are going to win. Anthony is a great player, don't get me wrong, but the Wizards have two guys in Trevor Ariza and Chris Singleton, who have had some success guarding him one on one and at the very least making him work for his points. Meanwhile, with Felton out and Bargnani playing center, John Wall is going to have quite possibly the easiest time getting to the basket that he'll have all year.
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