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Wizards head West in search of early-season history
It’s unusual for the Wizards to start the season with one home game, let alone this year’s two home dates to kick things off. 2017 marks the first time since 2011 that they’ve started a campaign with a home game at all, and they used their home floor to get to the doorstep of a rather obscure franchise high-water mark: winning three straight to tip-off a season.
Only three teams in franchise history have won their first three games of the season, and the Wizards will look to get their third straight Monday night in Denver against a revamped and young Nuggets squad (more on them in a bit). Below is a quick look at the three teams who have gone 3-0 or better to start a season:
1974-75 Bullets - 7 straight – 60-22 - NBA Finals appearance
1978-79 Bullets - 4 straight – 54-28 - NBA Finals appearance
2005-06 Wizards - 3 straight – 42-40 – First Round playoff appearance
Those ‘70’s Bullets teams’ profiles fit exactly what the Wizards want out of this season. Washington believes that it belongs in the conversation at the very top of the Eastern Conference, and has the mix of starpower and veteran experience to prove it as this year plays out.
To extend this a little further, Lonzo Ball and the Lakers are Washington’s second stop out West and the fourth game of the season before the mighty Warriors welcome the Wizards to Oakland for game No. 5. We’ll see how far things go, as playing out West is always tough for East Coast teams (full week’s schedule below), but it’s a fun thing to think about as we get the marathon that is an NBA season underway.
Mon. at Nuggets (9pm, NBCSW)
Wed. at Lakers (10:30pm, ESPN)
Fri. at Warriors (10:30pm, NBATV)
Sun. at Kings (6pm, NBCSW)
As for the outlook for the Wizards’ long week across the country while the Washington International Horse Show takes Capital One Arena, a few quick things to watch for through two games…
Defense, defense, defense
Specifically, defending the 3-point arc. This has been a focus for the Wizards dating back to last season, but running shooters off the 3-point line has to be a continued area of growth. Washington is allowing 113 points per game and the fourth-most 3-pointers through two games (two games is an extremely small sample), and Scott Brooks acknowledged Friday that it was near the top of the list of things to clean up.
From a defensive perspective, the Wizards’ matchups on this trip are split with two teams that can score in volume (Warriors and Lakers are both top-10 early) and two teams that have struggled mightily (Nuggets and Kings are in the bottom four in scoring). Still, as Brooks has pointed out early, the Wizards will be more focused on pushing their style and pace than adjusting to early-season tape from opponents. The obvious good news here on the flip side is that Washington’s 117.5 points per game so far are good for 4th in the NBA.
Markieff Morris is making good progress after hernia surgery this offseason, participating in his first contact practice over the weekend. Jason Smith is also nursing a shoulder injury that doesn’t have any structural damage, so his status for the week is still up in the air heading into Monday. Both are critical pieces if the Wizards are to have long-term success, and both seem to be trending in positive directions as the team hits the road.
West coast, best coast?
Last season, the Wizards went a combined 7-1 against the four opponent’s they’ll face on this road trip. The October 23 start of a West Coast trip marks the earliest in franchise history, which will make for an interesting side bar to the week. The schedule saw a good amount of shake up this season compared to years past due to the league moving up the start of the season by nearly two weeks, and this is one of the big byproducts of that switch where the Wizards are concerned.