The Washington Wizards had high hopes heading into this season. John Wall and company feel like they could win the East every season, but with LeBron James heading West they likely felt their path was more open than it’s ever been.
However things haven’t played out how they expected to start this season. They have only two wins more than the Cavaliers and can’t seem to hide how much they hate playing with each other. The Cavs have a chance to potentially amplify the Wizards tailspin if they can win back to back games for the first time this season.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (2-11) vs. Washington Wizards (4-9)
When? 7:00 PM EST
Where? Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Wizards injuries: None
Cavs injuries: Sam Dekker (ankle - out), Kevin Love (foot - out), Kyle Korver (foot - out), George Hill (shoulder - out), Cedi Osman (
too pure for this world back spasms- questionable)
Coming off wins against Miami and Orlando, the Wizards are trying to turn things around this season. Despite their abysmal start, they are just a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the East. Washington is .500 since Dwight Howard entered the lineup. While I won’t say he’s saved their season, I’m not not saying it.
For the Cavaliers the story of the last two games has been the effectiveness of the Tristan Thompson/Larry Nance Jr. pairing. The duo has a +6.3 net rating and a 95.1 defensive rating through 66 minutes together. While it isn’t the most beautiful basketball we’ve seen this team play, it has provided the Cavs with a defensive footing to help them stay in games with their inconsistent offense.
Keys to the game:
Win the battle of the boards. In the two games with Thompson and Nance starting together the Cavs have enjoyed a +34 advantage on the boards. This has helped narrow the talent gap for a shorthanded Cavs unit and has helped keep them in games. The Wizards have the lowest rebound rate in the NBA, which presents Cleveland with a real opportunity to make up for tired legs with extra possessions.
Impede John Wall in transition and limit penetration. When John Wall is in his element he is usually driving into the paint or to Rosebar. While the latter will likely need to wait until after the game, the Cavs can slow down the Wizards offense by forcing him to probe and give the ball up, rather than collapse the defense with his drive and kick game. Otto Porter Jr. and Bradley Beal can be deadly shooters when they find a rhythm, so forcing them to create off the dribble rather than find their groove with catch and shoot looks will help reduce the odds of them having a big night.
Take care of the ball. The Cavaliers are bottom five in the league when it comes to limiting turnovers, while the Wizards are above average at coming away with steals. When he tries, John Wall can be a terror in passing lanes and on ball. Collin Sexton and the other Cavs wings will need to be disciplined and not undo any advantage Cleveland may create on the boards by giving up extra possessions and transition points off turnovers.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
As fun as the Charlotte game was, this is still a shorthanded Cavs team on a back to back playing against a Washington team that really needs this win. Of all the teams in the Eastern Conference that have an ax to grind with the Cavs, Washington is probably at the top of the list. In the matchup of two lottery teams that have proclaimed the East runs through them, I think Washington will come away with a 112-104 win.