Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
With Wall on the mend, Wizards prepare to return home
Capital One Arena will be a sight for sore eyes on Wednesday when the Wizards finally return home for the first time since leaving for a 5-game trip way back on December 3. And while the team’s been on the road for over a week, they’ve fared well considering the schedule and the absence of four-time All-Star, John Wall.
Washington is 5-5 without Wall on the season, who is with the team on the trip and appears to be progressing well. A return to the floor seems to be coming sooner rather than later for Wall, who’s been going through his pre-game warm-up routine for the past few games. Before we get into this week’s storylines, a quick look at what’s on the docket…
Tue. at Brooklyn (7:30pm, NBCSW+/1500 AM)
Wed. vs. Memphis (7:00pm, NBCSW/1500 AM)
Fri. vs. L.A. Clippers (7:00pm, NBCSW/1500 AM)
Sun. vs. Cleveland (6:00pm, NBCSW/1500 AM)
Life without the Wall-Star
The Wizards would like to have a couple of the games back that they’ve dropped in Wall’s absence, specifically their last loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles over the weekend that slipped away late. But in the eight straight without their star point guard, they’ve stayed afloat and kept their offensive rating nearly the same thanks in large part to impressive performances from Bradley Beal. What’s changed noticeably, however, is how they get there. Washington’s pace sat at just over 100 possessions per game before Wall sat out, and in the eight games since has dropped to just over 96. That will certainly speed up again once Wall eventually returns, hopefully giving the Wizards extra possessions in close games. Look for a return to a quicker pace and more fast break opportunities that will hopefully be helped by our second storyline of the week…
Focus on Defense
It’s been a roller coaster ride of sorts for the past couple of weeks in Washington, but there’s been an important constant in each of the Wizards’ last four wins. In those four games, the opponent has scored less than 100 points, with the team’s defensive rating in those wins sitting at an impressive 97.6. Over that timespan, as one might expect, the Wizards also have rebounded better and limited teams’ points off turnovers to just over 11 points per game.
A player as special as John Wall on the floor can create increased opportunities singlehandedly, but a good byproduct of his time away has been the need to make the most out of every defensive possession, and the Wizards have done that when they’ve been successful. If that attitude continues with the addition of Wall – one of the league’s most dangerous players in the open floor – Washington could get on another roll in the middle of the month.
Respect the Opponent
A rematch with the Cavs awaits at the end of the week, but the Wizards have three teams currently sitting outside the playoffs on the schedule before Sunday. They’ve suffered some home losses to teams with losing records already this season, and certainly know that they’ll get plenty of tests in a dangerous Brooklyn team and a rematch with the Clippers. While the Grizzlies have won just one of their last 15 games heading into the week, that game falls on the second night of a back-to-back after a long trip, meaning the Wizards will have to bring their best focus to get a four-game homestand off on the right foot.