ESPN TrueHoop blogger Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) of the excellent Wizards Blog TruthAboutit.net was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Wizards (18-38) as they take on the Knicks (34-20) for the third time this season.
The Wizards have as many wins in the first 40 games of the season (9) as they do over the last 16. Is this just about getting John Wall back?
It’s definitely about John Wall, but to say that it’s ‘all’ about him would detract from the efforts of others. Wall has certainly helped the presence of Bradley Beal, but the rookie showed evidence of getting his NBA legs before Wall came back and continues to come into his own. Beal has recently shown the ability to carry the Wizards, especially with Wall struggling the past five or so games. Otherwise, interior defense and rebounding have really improved as Nene’s plantar fasciitis, which caused him to miss the first three weeks of the season, has continued to get better and his minutes have increased. (Of course, Nene is now dealing with a sore shoulder; he sat out of Wednesday’s game against Detroit.) The defensive front formed by Nene and Emeka Okafor is vastly different than having to pair Trevor Booker or Kevin Seraphin with Okafor.
Washington clearly hangs its hat of the defensive end (Def Rtg 102.2 6th in NBA). Why does this team struggle to score (Off Rtg 98.5 30th)?
Well, you have a point guard whose jumper still doesn’t get respect from NBA defenses. And it shouldn’t. Wall’s jumper this season ‘looks’ improved, but the fact is that he’s only shooting 0.8% better from midrange (33.3%) this season in comparison to last season. Otherwise, even as Beal comes along, the Wizards still lack enough bonafide scoring threats. And now, with Jordan Crawford in Boston, no one off the bench can create their own shot. The Wizards have found success running offense through Nene in the post, but as the season as progressed, you can tell that opposing defenses have adjusted their scouting reports, and the Wizards, not so much.
Who has the advantage and where?
The Knicks have the advantage from beyond the arc, but per a recent article that I wrote, the Wizards are one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooting teams since Wall’s return. Plus, there’s Carmelo — he would be an advantage. The Wizards, conversely, have an advantage in that they they do more sharing of the ball. If Washington can effectively defend Anthony (I’m sure they’ll run different looks at him all night), keep New York from getting second chance points, and run the Knick shooters off the 3-point line, we could have repeat of the 106-96 Wizards win in D.C. at the beginning of February.
I don’t feel great about John Wall getting out of his funk, so I’m calling a 111-106 New York win.
I have to agree with Kyle. The Wizards are much better than they were in the first half of the season, but I just do not see them repeating the same three point dominance they displayed in the last meeting (11 of 20 from deep) with Webster going 5 of 9 and Ariza 5 of 7. Having said that, it would be nice if the Knicks keep an eye on the corner threes.