|2012-2013 NBA Season|
|January 7th, 2013|
|The Verizon Communications Incorporated Center, Washington, District of Columbia|
|6:00 PM CST|
|Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network Middle-Atlantic|
|WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), 106.7 The Fan|
|Bullets Forever, Truth About It, Wizards Extreme, Wiz of Awes|
|Previous Meetings: None.|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Garrett Temple (A.J. Price?)|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Bradley Beal|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Martell Webster|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Nene Hilario|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Emeka Okafor|
Back in the first days of Thunder blogging, there really wasn't a whole lot out there. Many blogs rose and fell like waves on the ocean, with few leaving little impact at all. But if you followed the Thunder on the net back then, you'll know that easily the most popular blog was Bend it Like Bennett. It was basically just a huge gathering place for Seattle trolls, but a lot of their stuff was genuinely funny, if you were good humored enough to poke fun at yourself. The authors made some posts from the perspective of a exaggerated Clay Bennett, in the vein of Stephen Colbert. But as the Thunder started to succeed, the ties to Seattle became more distant, and the blog gradually faded into obscurity.
How does that have anything to do with tonight's game? Well, Bend it Like Bennett's last hurrah was a photo essay, depicting Kevin Durant and Jeff Green departing Oklahoma City in order to play for their hometown Wizards when their contracts expired in 2011. At the time, I thought that was a realistic possibility, with the Thunder not having hit their stride yet, and Jeff Green being forced to play out of position. But the result couldn't have been further from the hypothesis. The Wizards tanked and cleared cap, but they ended up drafting, trading for, or signing the craziest collection of injury-prone knuckleheads that you've ever seen.
In other words, the Wizards have been a big pile of crapola this season. Their shooting percentages are at the absolute bottoms of the league, they don't get to the line, they're mediocre at taking care of the ball, they don't pass a lot, and they foul too much. About the only good things you can say about this team statistically are that they can hold their own on the offensive boards.
Individually, the team is all over the place. Aside from the injured John Wall, Kevin Seraphin and Jordan Crawford have been the lone bright spots. Seraphin got some quality minutes for France during the 2012 Olympics, and has made steady scoring improvement throughout his time with the Wizards. Crawford has long solidified himself as a decent starter, but his shooting is still suspect.
After that, the team is pretty much a comedy of errors. Bradley Beal* is a rookie so you can cut him some slack, but his shooting percentages are really bad. Nene is maddeningly inconsistent. Jan Vesely has fallen off of the map. An assortment of guards, like Webster and Ariza, seem to be there to have bad turnover ratios and hoist up bricks. Emeka Okafor can almost be considered a consistent rock of offense.
Oh, and the injuries. Because of the gargantuan amount of them, it would be useless to try to list them all here. But it goes without saying that the Wiz have been scouring the free agent pool and D-League for temporary replacements all season. Shaun Livingston, Jannero Pargo, and Earl Barron have all seen the floor.
Anyway, let's not beat a dead horse. We all know the Wizards are bad. How can they win?
Well, I'll tell you how they've achieved each of their four victories. They used their depth against the Blazers, who have no bench. They did a similar thing against the Magic, who also have no bench. But they grabbed a few more offensive boards as well, against a team that's terrible at offensive rebounding. In another game, the Hornets managed to lose in a 77-70 game that only a mother could love. Lastly, there's their miracle win over the Heat, where they managed to play like a real team, play excellent in transition, and get to the line.
What does the above tell you? Not much, really. The Wizards haven't won consistently enough to develop any sort of trend or trademark to their ways. All I can say is that they don't really have a star to lift them up night to night, but when all of their role players execute perfectly, this team can definitely go places. They need to take advantage of the little things, like offensive boards, turnovers, and centers who like to foul.
In the end, the Wizards have played good teams well in the past, but if one cog springs loose, then the whole ship could quickly fall apart. How well the Thunder do really depends on whether that cog holds up. I'll say it does, and go ahead and predict a close road win. With Durant depressed over the Redskins loss, you never know what could happen.
*If you'll remember Draft Day rumors, we could have Beal right now instead of a lottery pick and Kevin Martin. I'm kinda glad we have Kevin Martin. (And I'll probably be eating my words in three years.)
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 99, Washington Wizards 94.