Only one game removed from their first victory of the season, the Wizards sobered up pretty quick after catching a Big Apple drubbing courtesy of the New York Knicks last Friday night (cue Katy Perry). (Terrible reference).
Luckily for the Wiz Kids a 3-day weekend came at a good moment, giving the fellas a chance to regroup and try to halt what could very well be the start of a new losing streak.
This, of course, considering the opponent squaring off against the ‘Zards tonight: everyone’s favorite goon squad, the Miami Heat.
The Wizards return to work with what appears to be a progressive mindset. Coach Wittman wants to run a more uptempo offense; AJ Price understands his role as the facilitator of that offense, and Kevin Seraphin (hopefully) understands that defending the lane tonight is on him, a frightful task at the very least.
A positive pixel for the Wizards this season is their bench production. Statistically, Washington ranks number one in the league in bench points at nearly 45 points a game -- a bittersweet milestone since it highlights the underachievement of the first unit as the Wizards are the only team in the league whose bench outscores its starters.
And what a tough-nosed, scrappy group that second unit is. Led by Jordan Crawford’s steez and Nene’s intermittent health, the Wizards draw most of their energy late in the first quarter of games when those two, along with the company of Martell Webster and Chris Singleton, check in.
Tonight, the first unit has to find a way to contain a potential early surge by the Heat so that the hailed bench can come in and maintain competitiveness throughout the rest of the game.
The “keys to the game” for the Wizards could take up the entire left margin of your television screen tonight as the Heat’s supreme talent and depth could make for a field day of matchup problems.
Here are some of the keys that I’d point out if I were Phil Chenier, with that exact facial expression:
Contain Lebron James. Keep him as far from the rim as humanly possible. Set up traps and force him to pass out of them in hopes of a turnover. Of course, this could very well and most likely will doom the Wizards anyway, considering it’ll be Ray Allen or Dwyane Wade he chucks it to. Or Rashard Lewis. Or anyone one of the guys who have helped the Heat attain near-record breaking 3-point stats.
In the limited minutes that Nene is on the floor, the Wizards need to plant him down low in the half court defense, leaving him in position to disrupt any lane-drives -- and there will be plenty of them. As mentioned before, this is also the daunted task for Seraphin as well. As we’re all aware, the Heat especially like to finish at the rim on fast breaks and unfortunately that won’t bode well for Nene’s limited mobility.
Containing Miami’s Big 3 is a boulder of a task by itself, but the Wizards must be weary of “the other guys” on that depth chart just as much. The Heat’s offensive rotations have a tendency to free up their shooters in various spots around the perimeter, especially behind the arc, which makes for a deadly encounter if the Wizards screw up defensive assignments. The Wizards are in the bottom 10 in defending the 3-ball and the last thing they want to deal with tonight is Ray-Ray, Shane Battier or Mike Miller catching fire.
Keep Jan Vesely off the floor. The man is about five hookah puffs away from solidifying his mark as an official NBA bust. Upon the slightest bit of defensive confusion, you notice that Vesely begins to whirl around different spots on the floor in complete break-down mode. This will bode dreadfully against a powerhouse offense like Miami’s.
Keep the energy guys on the floor as much as possible. Again, the guys are fresh off their 3-day leave and there will be a grave necessity for speed and stamina against a potent Miami team. I’m looking directly at you, Martell.
Seems like a manageable task on paper (not really), but as confident and optimistic as I am (not really), I’d be a bona fide liar if I said I wasn’t bracing myself for 1-14 (I am).