The Washington Wizards closed out 2014 with a sense of optimism. They were still holding the 3-seed but with a 22-9 record they were locked in a heated race between Toronto (24-8) and Atlanta (23-8). The Wizards dominated December by going 12-4 including key wins over the Clippers and Rockets, while only dropping one game to a sub .500 team in the Boston Celtics. My how things can change in a month.
Don't look now, but the Wizards record in January was 9-8. What was once a heated battle for the top spot in the East has become a tentative hold on the three-seed with only 1.5 game cushion on the Bulls and (even more worryingly) a 2.5 game cushion over the suddenly red-hot Cavaliers. The Atlanta Hawks seem miles away with a 9 game lead on the 1-seed. At this rate, we could be talking about the Wizards slide to the 5-seed for next week's summation. Almost every game seems to be a tale of two halves, with an enormous come back or letting a team climb back into a game late. John Wall has been hurt, Marcin Gortat is in a funk, Paul Pierce's old toe injury is sidelining him, and Rasual Butler has lost his magic. The Wizards need a break.
After playing the Raptors in Toronto on February 11th the Wizards well get that much needed 9-day break to recharge. I'm confident that the Wizards will come out of the break ready to begin contending in the East again, the trick is to not do too much damage until we get there. With only six games left before the All-Star break the Wizards have an opportunity to hide behind the fairly easy schedule in front of them to gain some traction again in the Eastern Conference. Of the remaining six, only Toronto and Atlanta should pose any real challenge. Charlotte (2x), Brooklyn, and Orlando are all well below .500. It would be nice to steal one from Atlanta or Toronto, but at this point I don't see it happening. A 4-2 record would more than likely leave us at the 3-seed and set us up nicely moving forward.
Just make it to the break Wizards. You can figure the rest out from there.
Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
This past week, Humphries is the only player who has consistently played well in all 4 games. He was an absolute monster on the boards, more than doubling his season average with 13.5 rebounds per game. Just to give you an idea, 13.5 rebounds a game would be good enough to tie with Deandre Jordan for most rebounds in the league if extrapolated over an entire season. Most of this work was from the bench as well, getting one lone start in Nene's absence for the Suns game. His strong play has been rewarded with more playing time, which spiked from 22 MPG this season to 30.5 MPG this week. This comes at the right time as well considering Marcin Gortat has had a very uneven couple of weeks, and someone had to step up to cover the lost ground from a rebounding standpoint when Marcin sat. Humphries has shown himself to be a very reliable bench player and should probably be considered Washington's sixth man now that Rasual Butler has gone ice cold.
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There's not much to be said about Martell Webster since his return because that's exactly what he's done, not much. Since his return on December 30th, he has never scored more than 5 points. In fact he has only once taken more than 2 three-pointers, and is currently shooting 20% from long range. He got the benefit of the doubt early on, but it has now been a full month since he returned and he is still a liability in every facet on the court. The good news is that Otto Porter has been getting a lot more run because of this. Porter has seen his minutes go from 18.1 a night to 24.6 per night over the last three games due to Webster's poor play. Otto also got the start over Webster against the Lakers when Paul Pierce sat the game out. I think that Otto should be getting the minutes off the bench at SF for the foreseeable future, because he is our future. Martell Webster should stay on the bench and plan out his retirement.
Photo Credit: Chris Humphreys - USA TODAY Sports
At the onset of Sunday night's game against the Denver Nuggets, it was unclear whether or not Ty Lawson would play. Two nights before the game he had been arrested for the suspicion of a DUI. If the charge was bothering him you certainly weren't able to tell as he went off on John Wall for 31 points and 12 assists. John had a great offensive game himself with 19 points and 16 assists but failed to defend Lawson in any meaningful way. Denver should have come away with this game in regulation but Kenneth Faried's timely choking at the line sent the game to overtime. Then, with about 10 seconds left in OT the Wizards had a comfortable 117-112 lead. Wilson Chandler nailed a 3 to bring it a two point lead and then Paul Pierce did the unthinkable. He passed the ball directly to Ty Lawson on the inbound. Lawson miraculously missed a wide open mid-range jumper that would have sent the game to double overtime. The Wizards were lucky to get away with one here and Paul Pierce had to thank Lawson for not making him the goat. Read the game story here.
Photo Credit: Robert Hanashiro - USA TODAY Sports
After a days rest, the Wizards traveled to Los Angeles to take on the suddenly Kobe-less Lakers. Loser of 8 straight, LA wasn't seen as much of a threat to Washington. John Wall was playing through Achilles tightness and migraines so the hope was that he could play sparse minutes and get some rest on the bench once the Wizards gained a comfortable lead. After Jordan Clarkson and Wayne Ellington took over the first half for the Lakers it became clear that John was going to be needed to avoid the L. In the second half, the Wizards erased a deficit that had ballooned to as much as 19 points to win semi-comfortably 98-92. This comeback would probably have not been completed had Wall sat out, he ended up with 21 points, 13 assists, and 9 rebounds. It's also worth noting that Otto Porter Jr. had a nice game filling in for the injured Paul Pierce with 12 points. Read the game story here.
Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Following the Lakers game, the Wizards headed straight to Phoenix on Wednesday with a match up against the Suns. It was the fourth game in five nights for Washington and it was obvious that they were worn out. John's wear and tear began to show in a bad way during this game and he struggled mightily with a stat line of 11 points, 7 assists, and 5 turnovers. Serious questions regarding his health began to be raised. Otto Porter was one of few bright spots for the Wizards with 3 made three-pointers off the bench for 14 points. Washington trailed for a majority of the game but were able to come within 4 points twice in the fourth quarter. The late game heroics of none other than P.J. Tucker closed things out for the Suns, who won 106-98. Read the game story here.
Photo credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Saturday night, the Wizards faced the Toronto Raptors, who always seem to have their number. It seemed like John Wall wasn't going to play, as he missed practice and shoot-around. But of course, John couldn't miss a game this big, so they rolled his hobbled body out there one more time. He was clearly uncomfortable for most of the game, but almost got himself a triple-double. Due to a horrendous start to the second quarter which allowed a 19-3 run, the Wizards were playing catch-up for a majority of the game. After a pretty incredible comeback, Paul Pierce nailed a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, the Wizards offense stagnated from there and Toronto left with the win. Read the game story here.
The Wizards will be splitting their time between the Verizon Center and the southeastern part of the country this week. Three of the four games are winnable while the other will be a measuring stick game against the hottest team in the league. Hopefully the Wizards can use this semi-soft week to gain some ground in the Eastern Conference standings.
On both Monday and Thursday, the Wizards will take on the Charlotte Hornets, the latter of which being in Charlotte. The Hornets were red hot and had climbed back into the Eastern playoff picture before it was announced that Kemba Walker had to undergo surgery on his knee Monday. Charlotte has been dealing with injuries all season, but this one is especially damaging. Kemba will likely miss at least six weeks of action and Charlotte's only one game above Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference standings. Their misfortune is Washington's opportunity to steal two games from a team that will not be operating at full capacity, these should be easy wins.
Wednesday's game will be the real test as the Wizards are travelling to face the twitter breaking Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta's winning streak currently stands at 19 after crushing the 76ers last night, and they show no signs of slowing down. They also got three players into the All-Star game, even with Kyle Korver getting snubbed. This would be a great game to steal. but it's going to be a tall task. Hopefully John Wall will be back to full speed by this point and be able to slow down Jeff Teague a bit. I hate to say it, but this one probably won't be pretty. Until Washington shows us that they can start clicking again I fear that they will continue to drop these marquee games until they limp into the All-Star break. A win here would be enourmous, but I just don't see it happening.
To close out the week, Washington will be taking on Brooklyn at home on Saturday. Brooklyn is in a major slump right now, and is in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs. The trade talks for Brook Lopez have become a laughingstock, as the most serious deal for him on the table involves JaVale McGee. Hopefully, the Wizards won't forget what happened to them on January 16th and just blow the Nets out of the water early. As long as Jarrett Jack doesn't go off again, I don't think it will be much of an issue.
In Case You Missed It:
JDC Entertainment put out another great production. This one is entitled "The Rise Of The Monument", chronicling the Wizards rise into being a contender. I could watch these all day.
Marcon Gortat is reportedly considering shaving his Mohawk off. We need to start a petition to change his mind right away.
Gortat said he’s thinking about shaving the Mohawk "very soon…It’s time. I think it’s time."
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) January 30, 2015
Speaking of Gortat...
Little Gortat. pic.twitter.com/JMq5S6hopR
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) January 30, 2015
John Wall had some very... interesting "smack talk" for Stephen Curry. It turns out it was all just an advertisement for deodorant. I am excited to see the contest though.
NBAstore.com doesn't know how Nene's name works
In case you forgot how close we were to losing to the Nuggets last Sunday, here's your reminder.
But the best part is this Nugget's fans reaction.
Comment of the Week:
This comment of the week comes from an article I wrote earlier this week regarding whether or not John Wall needs to take a night or two off. While I do appreciate qthaballa's well thought out comment, the real reason it is here is to give context to djnnnou's comment. Pure gold, and it was probably the hardest I have ever laughed at a BF comment.
Unfortunately, as of now I cannot actually look through every single article and determine who has the strongest comments. Although I do look through all of my articles comments and game threads comments, but if any of you find anything that I may be missing that you think is strong feel free to send it to me @BobbySteeleBF on Twitter.
As I said last week, please let me know if there's anything you would like to see included or modified for these Sunday Summations. You can leave suggestions in the comments here or @BobbySteeleBF on Twitter. I'll do everything in my power to make those happen for you.