JOHN Wall and the Washington Wizards played in probably the best regular season game of the year against Cleveland the other night. They fell in overtime 140-135, thanks to some LeBron James and Kyrie Irving magic, but despite the L they solidified themselves as a serious threat in the East.
IT hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows in DC though. In the first 10 games this season the Wizards went 2-8 with plenty of trade rumours surfacing regarding All Star point guard John Wall. New head coach Scott Brooks was being deemed a hiring mistake, there were ‘chemistry issues’ in the team and all signs pointed to another disappointing season of basketball for the franchise. Fast forward to the present and the 31-21 Wizards are the #3 seed in the East and have one of the best records in the league. Since the start of January, Washington is 15-5 and to put that in perspective Golden State has a 15-3 record, Cleveland has gone 11-8 and San Antonio is 13-6.
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SO how did they turn the corner? It can be attributed to a few things, but everything revolving about the Wizards starts and ends with their backcourt. John Wall is clearly an All Star and is starting to get the recognition he deserves as a true elite NBA player. He has been supported by the stellar play from Bradley Beal as well. Beal has lifted his output since the turn of the new year, shooting almost 5% better from the field, which has translated to a higher scoring output too. As good as their backcourt is they can’t win on their own, and the rise of 4th year pro Otto Porter has been a blessing. The former Georgetown Hoya is having a career year across all categories, and at the time this article is being published Porter is shooting the best three point percentage in the league (46.4%).
THE rest of the Wizards starting lineup is contributing too. Gortat and Morris are a serviceable duo at the four and five, beasting on the boards and thriving on the end of John Wall dimes. The biggest concern for Washington has been their bench and they are getting handy contributions from Kelly Oubre Jr, Jason Smith and Tomas Satoransky. They may still need a piece or two for the stretch run, but come playoff time most teams shorten their rotations anyway. Toronto’s slip ups over the past month have led to the Wizards taking their spot at 3rd in the East and they have their sights set on the Celtics above them. Boston’s inconsistencies have left the door wide open for Washington, with their last four losses coming against the Kings, Trailblazers and Knicks and you guessed it the Wizards. If John Wall can help get the Wizards to the #2 seed they only have the Cavaliers to beat, and we know that they aren’t intimidated by the perennial East favourites. The sky’s the limit for Washington and if they can retain this form in the playoffs, we could be in for some fireworks.
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