West Coast - Best Coast.
The Wizards open up a four-game Western Conference road trip tonight against the Utah Jazz, a team that has had the league's best record since the All-Star Break.
Washington may be on a four game win streak that has seemingly pushed their recent 4-13 slump to the rear view mirror, but they have yet to really prove themselves when it counts. After winning Monday against the Portland Trailblazers, now is their time to shine against a sub-.500 team.
At 14-18 on the road and 14-10 against the Western Conference, winning tonight's game against a streaking Utah team will put them in a good position to best the best in the West in their next three games.
When and where? Ugh, sorry East Coasters - this game tips at 10:30 p.m. EST from EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Catch it on CSN Washington, per usual, or join the 99.1 FM #radioparty.
Who's out? Kris Humphries remains out for the Wizards, while Garrett Temple is still day to day. Nene is listed as "out" on the injury report, though that still could be from last week, when he was out for personal reasons. The Jazz have no significant injuries at this time.
Jazzin' Jazz? (Wow, I am lame for that one, huh?) After starting 6-19, the Jazz have had (BIG TIME) success the second half of the season. Winners of six in a row, they are an NBA best 10-2 since the All-Star Break, with wins against Portland, San Antonio, Memphis and Houston. Since the break, they also rank ranking first in defensive rating (89.7), net rating (12.1) and rebound percentage (55.8 percent). Who would have thought?
Since All-Star Break, @UtahJazz have @NBA's best record (11-2) & rank 1st in Defensive Rating (89.7), Net Rating (+12.1) & Rebound% (55.8%)— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) March 17, 2015
Forward Gordon Hayward and center Rudy Gobert have been playing exceptionally well. Hayward is averaging 19 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and 3.9 assists. Gobert has really come alive in his past 10 games, averaging 10.8 points per game on 58 percent shooting, along with 15.9 rebounds per game as well.
Wizards back? That sad January/February stretch seems to be a thing of the past for Washington. Over the past four games (which were all dubs, by the way), the Wizards have averaged 105 points on 51.2 percent shooting. John Wall and Bradley Beal seem to have that pep in their step back - you know, the one that brought the team to the playoffs last year for the first time since dinosaurs roamed. The defense is back on track too, allowing just 91.6 points per game on 41.9 percent shooting in the last 10. As aforementioned, after tonight's game, the Wizards play the some of the West's best (Clippers, Kings and Warriors) before coming home. Putting their best foot forward tonight will help them the rest of this trip in the West.
Matchup to watch? Marcin Gortat vs. Rudy Gobert, two European big men. For as well as Gobert has been playing for the Jazz lately, Gortat hasn't been too shabby either. In his last 10 games, Gortat's averaging 14 points (on 61 percent shooting) and 11.4 rebounds - both well above his season averages. The last time these two squared off, Gortat had just five points on 2/8 shooting and seven rebounds. Gobert had seven points on 3/5 shooting and nine rebounds. Man, watching these two hot playing players go at it tonight will be good.
Who wins? What goes down, must go up, they say (LOL, they don't). The Wiz were down, now they're up. R-E-L-A-X folks, Wall and Co. have this one.
While explaining his mind-set through the storm, the Wizards' all-star point guard turned Saturday to teammate Drew Gooden III, seated in a nearby locker room stall.
"What did Aaron Rodgers say?" Wall asked Gooden.
"Relax," Gooden shouted, a reference to the NFL MVP's one-word, all-caps, spell-it-out reaction on Twitter to frustration over the Green Bay Packers' slow start to last season, which culminated with the Packers' run to the NFC championship game.
Wall laughed and said: "Yeah. Just relax. Every team goes through a rut. Everybody is going to have a slump some type of way. Hopefully, we got out of it."