What is it about playing the Wizards that brings out the best in some guys?
In past years, players like Gerald Henderson, Lou Williams, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Khris Middelton would all have big games statistically when going up against the Wizards. Washington was able to hold these guys in check for the most part during the 2015-2016 season but there was a new batch of “Wizards Killers” that emerged.
For those new to the party, let me define what a “Wizards Killer” is.
Wizards Killer – An average or above-average player who puts up uncharacteristically huge numbers when playing against the Wizards. Players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant (well he did kind of rip the hearts out of Wizards fans… never mind), Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, etc. are ineligible from this elite fraternity as they have multiple All-Stars appearances so it’s expected that they put up big numbers against Washington.
So who ripped the Wizards’ fans collective heart during the 2015-2016 season?
Matthews averaged a pedestrian 12.5 points, 1.9 assists and 3.1 rebounds during the 2015-2016 season. Against the Wizards, Matthews averaged nearly 20 points more per game (32 PPG in two games) to go along with 2.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
Matthews had an up-and-down start to the season. There’d be nights where he’d score between 15-20 points and others where he was held to single figures. Matthews voiced his frustrations prior to the game against the Wizards and in-turn took out his frustrations by scoring 36 points on 10-17 shooting from three-point range; his highest scoring output of the season.
Matthews wasn’t done there. He would score 28 points (second highest scoring output of the season) on 6-11 shooting from three-point range just six days later when the Mavericks hosted the Wizards in Dallas.
He shot 36 percent from three-point range during the regular season but against the Wizards, that number skyrocketed to 57 percent. In addition, Matthews shot 55 percent from the field against the Wizards while shooting just 38.8 percent from the field the rest of the season.
He shot nearly 20 percentage points above his field goal shooting percentage and three-point shooting percentage as well as having his best and second best scoring games of the season against the Wizards.
That gets Wesley Matthews firmly cemented as the top Wizards Killer of 2015-2016.
Although Mack played in just one game against the Wizards, this one stings because the Wizards waived Mack twice. Once before the start of the 2012 season and again in January 2013 after Mack re-signed just a week earlier.
Shelvin Mack responded with 27 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists on March 11th as the Jazz beat the Wizards 114-93. Mack averaged just 4.5 points per game during his short tenure with the Wizards and 8.6 points per game last season with the Hawks and Jazz (Mack was traded at the deadline).
It’s clear Mack was looking for revenge against his former team as he too scored a season-high 27 points against the Wizards on 11-17 shooting. Not bad for a guy who shot 44 percent from the field during the regular season.
A player who the team waived twice comes back to burn them for 27 points; over three times his scoring average for the season. Is there anything that’s more #SoWizards than that?
Unlike the guys mentioned above, Thomas had four cracks at the Wizards this season. The Wizards are known to struggle against small and quick point guards and that was no different this season against Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics.
Thomas averaged 23 points this season against the Wizards, slightly up from his season average of 22.2. But remember, three out of the four games against the Celtics this season were blowouts. The closest game between the two teams came on January 16th where the Celtics won 119-117. Sure enough, Thomas had 32 points in that game. Like the two other guys mentioned above, Thomas did his damage from three-point range shooting 47.8 percent against the Wizards compared to just 36 percent from distance during the regular season.
Yes, Thomas was an All-Star this past season. But the fact that he stands just 5’9 and was still able to torch the Wizards on four different occasions grants him eligibility to be part of the club.
Now if this were any other year, Kobe would not be eligible to join the very selective Wizards Killer club. However, since Kobe was on his farewell tour and played for one of the worst teams in the NBA, he can be reinstated for one year.
To refresh everyone’s memory, the Wizards had just beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland the night prior to get the month of December started. So a home game against the lowly Lakers the next night would be an automatic win right?
Vintage Kobe came alive hitting big shot after big shot for the Lakers ending the game with 31 points; nearly 14 points above his season average of 17.6.
Kobe would score 12 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers would beat the Wizards that night. Kobe would ride into the sunset waving goodbye to all of the Laker fans that flooded Verizon Center that night making it a quasi-road game for Washington.
Honorable Mentions: Tyreke Evans (27 points, 12/11/2015), Danilo Gallinari (26 points, 1/28/2016), Zach LaVine (25 points, 3/25/2016).