By: Jeremy Hyman
After getting three days off for the holiday break, the Wizards are back in action tonight as they host the Cavaliers at Verizon Center (7:00 pm | TV: CSN | Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM). The Cavs won the first game in the series, 94-84, back on opening night in Cleveland.
The Wizards are hoping that the time away from the court not only helped them get healthier, but also provided a mental break in which they can come back and start getting on a roll. At yesterday's practice, Randy Wittman talked about the team trying to gain some momentum in a positive direction and how they need to start tallying up some wins to try and right the ship.
Tonight would be a great way to start a winning streak, as the Cavs enter tonight's game as the only team in the NBA with more losses than the Wizards. The Cavs, who drafted one spot after the Wizards in this past NBA Draft, are also a team that is struggling this year. They have had a lot of trouble defensively, as they allow teams to shoot 47% from the field. One of the keys to their win in the opener was the play of Anderson Varejao and his work on the glass, but he won't be with the team tonight as he is out with a knee injury. Without Varejao, they will likely start four players either in their rookie or second year, which means the Wizards will want to capitalize on some of their youth and inexperience.
For the Wizards, it was encouraging to have Nene make his first start of the season on Saturday night and hopefully he will be able to continue to increase his minutes as the season moves along. While they won't have any of their injured players back tonight, they are getting closer to return dates which will be encouraging for a team that needs a spark. The team did make a roster move after last game as they welcomed back Shelvin Mack along with newcomer Garrett Temple. While Mack is familiar with the system, this is Temple's first go around so we will see how much the two of them see the floor in their first game tonight.
The keys for these teams will probably be at that point guard spot, as both Jordan Crawford and Kyrie Irving lead their respective teams in scoring. It goes without saying that if the Wizards can shut down Irving, they will give themselves a great chance to win. However, that is easier said then done as Irving is one of the top young point guards in the league today. If they can force him into some tough shots and not let him get into the lane with ease, they will give themselves a good chance to get the win tonight.
Jordan Crawford is averaging 21.8 points and 7.5 assists per game over the Wizards last four contests, which includes his triple-double (27p, 11r, 11a) performance in the Wizards game against the Hawks on December 18th. With many of his teammates banged up, Crawford has taken much of the load on his shoulders and now plays the role as scorer and playmaker.
Opposite Crawford will be the engine that makes the Cavs go in Kyrie Irving. In just his second year, Irving has emerged into one of the top young point guards in the game and is a player who can do it all. He will shoot from three point range at an over 40% clip, he will penetrate and score or penetrate and dish depending on how the defense reacts. He is the one player on the court that the Wizards need to be constantly aware of and they will need to mix up their looks on him defensively.
On opening night in Cleveland, Irving went off for 29 points in the Cavs win and was key to their fourth quarter charge. Jordan Crawford had 11 points and five assists in that game, but played a different role then as he came off the bench. Tonight, the two will both be heavily relied upon by their respective teams to do much of the scoring as both of these teams have struggled this season on the offensive end.
In the below clip, Crawford fakes and goes by Knight for the easy bucket.
In this clip, Crawford talks to the media following Saturday night's game against the Pistons.