Remember when you were younger and someone decided to sing that awful tune, "Make new friends but keep the old?"
That's how I feel about the Miami Heat and the Washington Wizards. Bear with me here: As someone who was born and raised in South Florida, I'm loyal as can be to my Miami sports teams. But now, I live in D.C. (and have for 2+ years) and have realized that its sports teams need some love too.
Regardless of my personal views, tonight's game between the Heat and Wizards is one that has far more meaning than my old hometown vs. my new hometown.
The Heat, 6-4 in their last 10 games and winners of two straight, are holding on ever so slightly to a playoff spot - which is weird after being the dominant team in the NBA for many years. (Thought you could get me to mention the L word here, didn't you?) The Wizards are 3-7 in their last 10 and despite having the Eastern Conference's fifth-best record (34-27), they're an NBA worst 3-12 since Jan. 28. After surprising the league last year and making it to the second round of the playoffs, who knows if they can even make a statement this time around when the 2014-15 NBA season concludes.
When and where? 7 p.m. from the Verizon Center. Catch it on CSN Washington, join the #radioparty at 99.1 FM OR go in person if you live in the area - It's too damn cold out anyway.
Who's out? Kris Humphries was listed as ‘out' as recently as yesterday for the Wizards, so, sad face. Chris Johnson, Luol Deng and Chris Andersen are all questionable for the Heat with "general soreness", but with Erik Spoelstra as your coach and a playoff dream on the verge of slipping away, odds are all three play tonight.
Let's talk about MIA? The team that represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals last year has not had a winning streak of more than three games this season. And that 3-0 streak came at the very beginning of this season. My, how things have changed! The Heat, who at 27-33 are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, have lost five of their last seven games on the road (allowing 100.3 ppg, which is good news for the Wizards, who are 26-7 when scoring at least 98). At the beginning of this season, if you told me the Heat's playoff hopes hinged on players named Henry Walker, Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic, I would have laughed in your face ... Yet, here we are. After tonight's game, the Heat play Sacramento, Boston and Brooklyn - A win tonight, which would be their THIRD IN A ROW (wow!!) would be huge going forward, and allow them also to separate themselves a bit from the EC's eighth seed.
Let's talk about WASH? Things haven't been fun for the Wiz Kids lately. Sure, they've won five of the last six games at home vs. the Heat ... But that was then and this is now. At end of play on Jan. 27, the Wizards were the East's no. 2 seed - since then, like I said above, they've gone a league-worst 3-12 (tied with the Denver Nuggets) while averaging just 94.8 ppg. The team has highly regressed as the games have continued on ... breaking down on defense, taking ill-advised shots and simply being out of sync. As I said on Tuesday before the Chicago loss, the next few games against average Eastern Conference opponents would be telling. They travel to Milwaukee and Charlotte in the next three days, so winning against a strong-willed Miami team tonight is exactly what they need.
Point gawds? I know I focus a lot on John Wall, but how could I not?! He's so damn exciting to watch play: the entire Wizards team ebbs and flows with him. Furthermore, despite this sad time for the Wizards, Wall joins Chris Paul as the only other player in the league averaging at least 17 points, 10 assists and 4 rebounds per game. Not bad! Not to mention, Wall still leads all point guards with 33 double doubles this season - Paul has 31 to put him in second place. His matchup with Dragic, who joined the Heat from the Phoenix Suns on Feb 19, will be the one to watch tonight - "the Dragon" is averaging 15.9 points, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals this season. He also has the best shooting percentage in the restricted area for any point guard, with 69.2 percent (thanks, Bleacher Report). The last time these two point guards matched up was Jan. 28 - Dragic had 20 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals; Wall had 11 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds and 1 steal as the Dragic's old squad got the victory.
What's the bottom line? The bottom line is that I have rambled too, too much for a Friday mid-morning. This game really tugs at my heartstrings in terms of who to root for ... At least it's a win-win for me either way? I'm not making a prediction tonight either, but I can predict this - Whoever scores the most points wins.
PS: Watching the Heat's 7 foot center Hassan Whiteside (11.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg and 2.5 blkpg) go up against Washington's Marcin Gortat (11.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 1.3 blkpg) is going to be AH-MAZING. Grab your popcorn (aka your Friday night adult beverage of choice) and GET READY.