The road record for the Cleveland Cavaliers has been one of the team’s Achilles heels. The Cavs are just 12-10 away from Quicken Loans, while the Washington Wizards have won 17 straight games on their home court. If the team is to win on Monday night, they’ll need to find a level of focus that has been missing on the road this season.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (34-15) at Washington Wizards (30-20)
When? 7 PM
Where? Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Where on my eyeballs? TNT
The Wizards have turned their season around in a big way and currently are in possession of the third seed in the Eastern Conference. The biggest reason for their success has been the phenomenal play of John Wall.
Wall has shown a level of assertiveness that has been missing from his game until this season. Scoring a career high 23 points per game on a career high 45.9 percent shooting. Even his assists are at a career high 10.4 per game. While this increased load has had a toll on how consistently he contributes on the defensive end, the net gain for the Wizards has been dramatic compared to other years.
But Wall has had help during his career year. Otto Porter Jr. has turned into one of the better “three and D” starters in the league, while leading the league in three point percentage. Porter has shown tremendous versatility as a defender and is making good on the promise he showed in college.
Bradley Beal has also made the leap this season. He and Wall have managed to find a way to co-exist and both are thriving with career years. Beal has also stayed relatively healthy this season, something that had been missing throughout his prior years with the team.
The biggest hole with this Wizards team comes in the form of their bench. The lone bright spots have been the still-developing Kelly Oubre, and 25 year old rookie Thomas Staoransky. For the amount of success the Wizards have had this season, I’m curious how much better they would be at the moment had defensive anchor Ian Mahinmi not injured himself after just 14 minutes of play this season.
Washington’s young players have finally improved to the level where they can give John Wall the support he has been lacking for most of his career. The team finally appears to be on the right track and Monday’s match-up with the Cavs will likely be a measuring stick and a test to see if they can reignite the flames from past rivalries.
Kyrie Irving will return to the lineup Monday, as he no-doubt is looking forward to another showdown against Wall. Kevin Love also appeared to find his mojo against the Knicks on Saturday, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can have his way against the sometimes aloof Markieff Morris.
Both teams have something to prove in this matchup, and with the national TV spotlight, I think we’re in for a strong effort from both sides.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
Given the national TV setting, I expect Irving to come out and attack the same way he did against Russell Westbrook and the Thunder last week. If Irving matches or exceeds the output provided by Wall, the Wizards don’t have enough to match the rest of the Cavs. Cleveland wins a tight one 108-104.