Wizards Look Strong as Bobcats, Hawks, Heat and Magic Struggle
The Washington Wizards are in the midst of their first winning streak of the season after topping the likes of Oklahoma City, Atlanta and Orlando, thanks in part to the inspiring return of talisman John Wall.
Washington welcomed Wall back on a winning note by topping Oklahoma City to collect their fifth win of the season, but fans at the Verizon Center were treated to a much more inspiring show on Saturday than any singular win could have done all season when Wall made his season debut with a 14 point, 6 assist night in just over 20 minutes of action against the Hawks.
He isn’t ready to play serious minutes just yet and was only able to take the floor for 20 minutes again on Monday against the Magic. In those 20 minutes, however, Wall’s impact was felt as the Wizards offense flourished and Wall found his teammates for 6 assists while scoring 12 points of his own.
It’s only two games, but when you consider that this team has won only seven games all year, that’s a big impact. The respect other teams have to give Wall coming off a pick and roll is significant and will make the rest of Bradley Beal’s rookie year a lot easier. Where do the Wizards go from here? Not far, but they can avoid being the worst team in the division as they are only a game behind Charlotte in the standings.
Their opponent on Monday received a small boost of their own with the return of Glen Davis to the lineup. The Magic lost nine of ten games without Davis, a stretch that has essentially taken them out of having much hope of making the playoffs. The loss on Monday to Washington further illustrates the team’s current problems as they were blown out by 29 points at the hands of the worst offensive team in basketball.
As the Magic struggle to find themselves again, they’ll have to address their offense which has fallen to 24th in the league at 95 points per game, but more importantly their defense which has been unable to stop anyone without Davis. Jacque Vaughn will be hopeful that Davis can get back to where he was at the beginning of the season and the Magic can avoid slipping any further in the Southeast.
BOBCATS FALL TO RONDO AND CELTICS
Increased production from Kemba Walker hasn’t been enough to maintain the Bobcats early season .500 record. After an 18 game losing streak was finally ended just before the New Year, Charlotte is starting a new one with a fresh four game skid that was continued last night against Boston.
Since Byron Mullens sprained his ankle just before Christmas, Hakim Warrick has stepped into the power forward role to provide the Bobcats with some quality minutes, but the defensive play of the entire team has been in decline as the season has gone on, holding opponents under 100 points just five times since Thanksgiving when their season began to take a turn for the worst. On Monday, it didn’t get much better as Rajon Rondo went off for his third triple double of the season.
Languishing at 9-28, this season is quickly turning into year of “gaining experience” for rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and second year center Bismack Biyombo, but another year at the Southeastern Division basement is certain to dishearten a good portion of the squad.
HAWKS SCORE SEASON LOW IN LOSS
Atlanta has lost six out of its last seven games, but Monday’s 97-58 loss to Chicago was certainly the most crushing defeat of the season. In the second quarter, the Hawks managed a mere five points on 2-of-21 shooting.
Nights like Monday call into question just how good this Hawks team is and how far they can go even in a weaker conference like the East. On the night, Chicago outrebounded Atlanta 59-39 and outscored them in the paint 44-30. The Hawks had only one player in double digits on the night, forward Mike Scott (10 points), and shot 29 percent from the field on the night including 14 percent from three point range.
The rest of this week promises to be tough for Atlanta as they face a pair of games against the surging Brooklyn Nets and another on Saturday against the Spurs. Luckily for Josh Smith and company, two of those games come at home where they are 12-6 on the season.
HEAT LOSE ANOTHER FRONT COURT BATTLE
Once again, the Miami Heat lost to a team with a stronger front court. Of the 12 games, the Heat have lost this season, nearly all of them have come at the hands of teams who outsize and overpower them under the basket. Utah’s deep front court knew this heading into Monday night’s tilt and took advantage of Miami’s lackluster rebounding.
Miami shot a remarkable 52 percent from the field on Monday, but when they missed they were out rebounded 40-23 by Utah’s big men Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson who combined for 20 boards. The second chance opportunities led Millsap to a 17 point performance and Jefferson to 23.
It’s that rebounding weakness that has led to rumors that Chris Anderson and Kenyon Martin could be fleshed out as possible signings in South Beach to fill the openings left by the team waiving Josh Harrelson and Terrell Harris. Meanwhile, Greg Oden has been identified as a possible summer signing coming out of retirement if he can get his fragile knees in playing shape. None of those solutions can come soon enough for a team that is last in the league in rebounding.