Good news: The worst of the Wizards' regular season schedule is over. Five of the Wizards' last eight games come against teams under .500, and two of their games against teams with winning records take place at the very end of the season (at Atlanta on 4/12 and at Cleveland on 4/15) where the teams will likely be restricting their stars' minutes, if not benching them completely.
The Wizards soft landing starts tonight at home Wednesday evening against the 76ers. When they first met back in January, the Wizards cruised to a 35 point win on Martin Luther King Jr. day. But when they met back up in Philadelphia in late February, the 76ers took down the Wizards 89-81. It's worth noting the Wizards were without Bradley Beal and Kris Humphries, but still, it should serve as a reminder the Wizards can't take tonight's game lightly.
Here's what you need to know about tonight's game:
Where and when: The Wizards and 76ers tangle tonight at the Verizon Center at 7 p.m. You can watch the game on CSN Washington or join the #radioparty on 99.1 WNEW.
Who's out? It sounds like Kris Humphries will be ready to go tonight after missing a month with a groin injury. Garrett Temple is still out.
Joel Embiid, Jason Richardson and Tony Wroten are all out for the 76ers. Luc Mbah A Moute and Jerami Grant (Harvey Grant's son) are questionable.
What's at stake tonight? The Wizards and Raptors are both in action this evening. Playing against the 76ers seems like a good way to make up some ground on Toronto the standings, but the Raptors are facing the equally bad Timberwolves in Minnesota tonight.
On the flip side, Chicago is in Milwaukee this evening. If the Bulls lose, the Raptors would move into a tie for third. Chicago holds the tiebreaker over Toronto, so they can't wait around to start making up ground.
How good is Nerlens Noel?
Over his last ten games, he's averaging 16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 1.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 52.8 percent from the field. He's also doing stuff like this:
While we're excited about what Otto Porter can offer, the Wizards are probably going to regret passing on the opportunity to get Noel when they had the chance. They wouldn't have lost anything by resting him all of last season (which they more or less did with Porter, even though he was healthy) and they still could have gotten Gortat to fill in for Emeka Okafor when he went down. Plus, they would have had more leverage in negotiations with Gortat over the summer.
But hey, it is what it is.
Who wins? The Wizards are angry, healthy, more well-rested and have something to compete for tonight, unlike the 76ers. If the Wizards don't come away with a win tonight, there's going to be lots of questions about effort and intensity tonight.