Viewers' Guide: Golden State Warriors visit Washington Wizards in Fan Night showdown
Kevin Cottrell Jr., Special to NBA.com
Warriors vs. Wizards, (7 ET, NBA TV)
Despite back-to-back losses, the Washington Wizards enter tonight’s showdown with the Golden State Warriors as one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Since Dec. 30, the Wizards (19-7) are tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the second-best record in the NBA and only the Warriors (22-4) have had a better record in that span. While the Wizards are jockeying for playoff positioning, the Warriors became the first team to clinch a playoff berth (doing so on Saturday).
A HOMECOMING (SORT OF)
“I really just didn’t want to play at home.” That’s what D.C. area native Kevin Durant recently told The Washington Post about his decision to not sign with the Wizards as a free agent last summer. Durant is 4-5 in his career in Verizon Center visits, but averages 27.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and shoots 47.4 percent in those games. But all is not lost when he visits D.C. as Durant’s teams are a 3-1 when he scores 30 or more points. Does he have another 30-point game in his sights? Will the hometown fans welcome him with open arms?
Despite the Warriors’ 9-2 record on the second half of back-to-back games, they’ve experienced road struggles lately. Golden State has dropped two of its last five road games and six of their nine losses this season have come on the road. But if there’s a bright side to playing in the nation’s capital, it is that the Warriors typically leave with a win. Entering tonight, the Warriors have won six consecutive games at the Verizon Center, averaging 114.5 points per game in that span.
Ever since Durant joined the Warriors, the “Splash Brothers” nickname for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson has often been placed on the back burner. Tonight, though, both sets of starting guards look to further defend their case as the NBA’s best backcourt. Thompson enters the game having scored 20 or more points in 10 of his last 11 games. His consistent play has been needed, especially with Curry coming off an NBA record-tying 0-for-11 showing on 3-pointers in a win against the Philadelphia 76ers. Don’t’ be surprised if Curry gets a better signal from long distance at the Verizon Center: one of his five career 50-point games came last February when he scored 51 points on an 11-for-15 showing from beyond the arc.
John Wall is in the midst of a career season that recently netted him a fourth consecutive All-Star appearance. He joins Russell Westbrook and James Harden as the only players to average a point-assists double-double this season http://on.nba.com/2mpaflg. The Wizards clearly go as far as Wall takes them, so it should come as no surprise that he’s been hot lately. He has recorded at least 20 points and 10 assists in eight of the last nine games. So far this season, he’s reached that 20-point, 10-assist mark 19 times (and Washington is 14-5 in those games).
Bradley Beal played just 55 games last season due to injury. Tonight marks his 54th game and he’s averaging career highs in points (22.6), assists (3.6) and field goal percentage (47.8). Beal has scored 40 or more points four times in his career, all of which have come this season. That makes him the the first Wizard to accomplish this since Gilbert Arenas reached the 40-point plateau nine times in 2006-07. He and Wall form arguably the best backcourt in the East and are looking to outshine what many regard as the best backcourt in the game today.
HOME SWEET HOME
If the Wizards expect to upset the NBA’s No. 1 team tonight, there’s no better place to do so than home. Since Dec. 8, the Wizards are 19-2 at home, a mark second only to the Warriors’ 17-1 record in that same span. However, home court hasn’t been as kind of late as both losses (to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Utah Jazz) have come in the last week. With one of D.C. area’s favorite sons returning for the first and only time this season, the Fan Night matchup will have a playoff-like atmosphere. The Warriors are a tough out no matter the arena, but the Wizards will do their best to live up to their recent Verizon Center success.