By: Jeremy Hyman
The Wizards are back on the road tonight as they travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena (8:00 pm | TV: CSN | Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM). The Wizards beat the Thunder, 101-99, back on January 7th at Verizon Center.
The Wizards have posted many impressive wins this season, but may have topped them all on Monday night when they beat a very good Memphis Grizzlies team without a number of their regulars. With just nine healthy bodies, they played one of their best games of the season and beat another playoff team at home. John Wall had a career night, posting 47 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds to lead the Wizards to their sixth straight home win. But tonight, they will be tested once again as they get the reigning Western Conference champions in their building.
The Wizards went 2-2 on their road trip last week, including an impressive win at Staples Center over the Lakers, but tonight may be their toughest game left on the schedule as they face a Thunder team that has lost just five times at home all season. The combination of a high-powered offense with stingy defense makes them one of the NBA's top teams. There will be no secrets where most of their offense will come from as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the most dynamic offensive players in the league. They are most dangerous when they get out on the break and score in transition, so the Wizards will need to limit the amount of fast break points to limit their explosiveness. Besides their two all-stars, the Wizards will need to account for Serge Ibaka who is having a career-season offensively and has developed an adequate jump shot to his arsenal. Ibaka is averaging 13.3 ppg and still is one of the league's top shot blockers, averaging 3.0 bpg. Off the bench, Kevin Martin will provide the offense after the Thunder acquired him just before the season began in the James Harden deal. He's a 43% three-point shooter and he will be the focal point when the second unit comes in.
The Wizards will hope to get some of their injured players back tonight, but there are no guarantees. If they have to play shorthanded again, Wall may need to score nearly 50 again tonight to keep the Wizards in the game. Coming off such a big game, there is no doubt all of the Thunder's attention will be on shutting down the third-year point guard, so it will be interesting to see what he can do for an encore.
The last time these two teams met, the Wizards upset the Thunder, 101-99, at Verizon Center as Bradley Beal drained the game-winner with 0.3 seconds left on the clock. They did that without John Wall, but did get 22 points apiece from Bradley Beal and Martell Webster, who are both questionable tonight with injuries. The Wizards made 10 three-pointers in that game and were able to hold Russell Westbrook to just 4-17 shooting as they hung on for the two point win. If the Wizards want to duplicate that performance, they will need to play mistake-free basketball tonight and play excellent defense on one of the more explosive teams in the league.
The action kicks off at 8:00pm.
What will John Wall do for an encore? That is the question we all want answered as he is coming off his best offensive night of his career, pouring in a career-high 47 points on Monday night in Memphis. He did that against a very good defensive team and will be tested again tonight against another good defensive squad in the Thunder. Wall could see both Westbrook and Sefolosha guard him tonight depending on how the Thunder want to match up with the Wizards.
Russell Westbrook can be one of the more elite offensive players in the game, but also has a tendency to take a lot of shots which the Wizards hope will be the case tonight. If they can force him into tough shots, they can limit the Thunder's efficiency on offense. All the attention may go to Wall's offense tonight, but his defense on Westbrook may be even more important as the Wizards look to pull off another upset tonight in Oklahoma City.
In the clip below, Wall caps off his night with this three.
In the clip below, Wall gets the big block.