Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ahead of Road Trip, Wizards Finally Showing a Sense of Urgency

By The USS Blogger (Ray Rogers)

The Washington Wizards let a win slip away on Saturday night at home versus the Indiana Pacers in a 100 – 99 loss, but after a drubbing at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers just 24 hours prior, Wizards fans should be encouraged at how the team responded. The Wizards came out of the gates strong with a 37 point first quarter that included shooting guard Bradley Beal being reinserted to the starting lineup. This game also marked the fourth start by newly acquired Power Forward Markieff Morris who has brought a spark and a much needed level of toughness to the team. Morris notched 14 points and eight rebounds in 32 minutes. The Wizards entered the fourth quarter with a two point advantage and battled through a final period that entailed seven lead changes. Ultimately, poor free throw shooting and an inability to contain Pacers small forward Paul George, who led all scorers with 38 points, sunk the Wizards on this night.

In spite of the loss, it was inspiring to see the Wizards overcome adversity including the fact that Bradley Beal was lost in the third quarter with a sprained pelvis. Now one could argue that Beal suffering an injury is such a common occurrence that the Wizards should be immune. However, for a team 7 – 3 following the all-star break finally appearing to get healthy, Beal’s loss was a tough blow. Now, with this looming road trip where do the Wizards go from here? Up first is a matchup with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers have dropped three straight and the perfect remedy for their current struggles just may be these Wizards. Following an embarrassing loss to the NBA’s version of a 16th seed in the NCAA tourney, the Philadelphia 76ers on January 16th, the Blazers came into the nation’s capital and defeated the Wizards 108 – 98 in a dominant performance. Following that game which was played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman emphasized the importance of “knowing the mindset of your opponent”. Now here’s a chance at redemption—Coach Wittman in a year where the race for an even higher seat in Washington D.C. has taken a page from WWE. If you had the privilege of attending a Wittman press conference he is actually a mix of Ohio Governor John Kasich and the infamous Donald Trump with a laid back demeanor, but responds to questions with smug answers and little substance.

As you should now be aware, Randy Wittman is my concern with this team. Anyway, the answer is simple moving forward in my opinion and that is PLAY YOUR BEST PLAYERS starting with Otto Porter Jr. On Saturday night vs. the Pacers, Porter was unable to establish a rhythm after playing only twenty minutes in a game where he started 3-4 FG in his first seven minutes only to finish 3 – 6 from the field. Porter appeared visibly frustrated with no clear reason as to why he was being held out in a game where the Wizards led by as many as 14, but failed to pull away. With shooting guard Alan Anderson playing his way into shape, the Wizards now appear to have some depth even without an injured Beal. In spite of all the adversity, they sit only 2 games out of eighth place in the eastern conference. Personnel management will be vital down the stretch and if managed correctly, the Wizards can put themselves in position to land a playoff spot. After the Blazers, the Wizards visit the Utah Jazz as well as the Denver Nuggets and anything less than 2 -1 on this road trip is unacceptable. 

Here is audio from Pacers Paul George after the Pacers beat the Wizards Saturday, March 5th. He spoke to the Urban Sports Scene and other reporters about his game winning free throws. Click here

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