If you haven’t heard yet, on Wednesday night the best and the worst of the NBA met in what was sure to be a lopsided affair. Washington’s league worst 2-12 record met the best of not only the West, but the NBA in 12-3 Oklahoma City, and the Wizards came out on top 105-102.
John Wall contributed 25 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds, good for 37 fantasy points. Fellow guard Nick Young added 24 points and 42 fantasy points and Andray Blatche pulled in a double-double and had 30 fantasy points. Most importantly, the Wizards exposed a weakness in what seemed to be an unbeatable Thunder team.
Oklahoma City’s guards had a game of their own as Kevin Durant went for 33 points and 50 fantasy points and Russell Westbrook went for 36 points and 47 fantasy points, yet both were outplayed. Oklahoma City wasn’t blown out by any means, and probably deserved to win this game in the minds of many. Fortunately, for Washington, the home court was on their side (or in Andray Blatche’s situation, not so much). Washington outscored the Thunder by eight points in the second half en route to the win.
The Wizards were never out of this game, and much of that can be credited to their backcourt. Loads of people will write this game off as a tired team that came in on a road trip and lost to a team who was looking to reap the benefits. Washington played up to the competition and earned the victory. The young backcourt of Wall, Young and Jordan Crawford slipped through screens and were faster than the Thunder. They beat Westbrook to loose balls, and outscored their opposition in transition. All the meanwhile, big men Javale McGee and Serge Ibaka battled it out down low, effectively cancelling each other out.
Young and Wall played extremely well, but the defense of Washington’s bench was also commendable. They held perennial sixth-man of the year James Harden to 13 points and 16 fantasy points in nearly 30 minutes, and no other bench player scored more than six. They did their job and let the young legs of their starters do the rest.
This could be somewhat of an intriguing game for Washington. Through this win, we’ve seen just how talented they really are. It’s no secret to fantasy owners that Wall has been less than spectacular this year, but he played like a star last night. With the other youngsters on his team, if he ever develops into a leader, the Wizards could have something to show for themselves other than a flashy retro uniform – this all without having seen their top-10 pick from last April, Jan Vesely.
Vesely should add depth and breadth along the wing for the Wizards. Freeing up shots for him will be key, and could see a better hole for Wall to drive to the basket and get fouled or dish to McGee, who apparently likes to dish to himself instead.
The Wizards are far from perfect and far from a playoff team, but have talent to give teams like Oklahoma City fits. They have speed and if they ever get the motivation, are able to fight for balls. They could be like a New Jersey Nets team circa 2003, with some good shooters and a great transition team.
More importantly, I think this Oklahoma City team has a weakness. They’re big and tenacious down low with Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka, but they don’t mix well with their backcourt. Those two don’t like to do things alone, but their backcourt does. They’ve got the beginnings of what could be an uncohesive team, taking low-percentage shots and such. Without the massive amounts of talent that Durant and Westbrook have, they’d be a disaster.
Nonetheless, both are must haves on fantasy teams. Better yet, Nick Young and Jordan Crawford are as well. They’re showing hard-working sides we’ve never seen before, and this Oklahoma City game displays just that.