More than halfway through the regular season, the outlook for the playoffs has started to materialize as all teams have had the chance to show their best to the NBA.Undoubtedly, the gateway to the Finals will run through Cleveland and the Bay Area, but the Washington Wizards have now become a sleeper to win the East. Winners of eight of their last ten games, the Wizards have been clicking lately with the play of their explosive backcourt John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The Wizards are Hot
Wall has been under the radar all year despite being the only guard in the East to average 20-10. A 2-8 start to the season made the Wiz kids poised for another disappointing season, but Wall’s leadership has helped the Wizards make up ground in the East going 24-12 since and being within a half-game of the Atlanta Hawks for first place in Southeast Division. Not to be forgotten has been the play of Wall’s backcourt mate, Bradley Beal who has finally been able to stay healthy and having a career year averaging 21.7 points a game and shooting 45% from the field.
Wall and Beal also lead the league in confidence as they not only believe they are the best backcourt in the NBA, but they can back up their bark, especially in their “funeral” game vs. the Celtics on January 24.
Despite the Wizards’ recent success, the team to beat out East are still the Cleveland Cavaliers. A record of 31-14 is good enough for the top spot out East, but the Cavs have been struggling lately. With a record of 4-6 in their last 10 games with losses to the Pelicans sans Anthony Davis, an overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings, and a 34 point drubbing by the Warriors on MLK day.
Trouble in Cleveland
Lebron can complain about being the team being “top heavy”, but the Cavs have looked to be more complacent this season. Besides their Big 3, key contributors last season like J.R Smith and Iman Shumpert have been M.I.A. all season. The Cavs are closing in on realizing how much they miss Matthew Dellavedova, a thought no NBA team should have. In the meanwhile, GM Lebron will most likely get his way and end up with exactly who he wants. Whether it be a disgruntled Rajon Rondo or a banana boat reunion with Carmelo. If not Lebron will just continue blackmailing David Griffin with the idea of leaving again until they can find a secondary playmaker.
The Golden State Warriors continue to be impressive out West, on pace to win 60 games for a third straight season. Though a buzzer-beating loss to the Miami Heat at the hands of Dion “the second coming of D-Wade” Waiters, revealed their tendencies to turn the ball over and lollygag against inferior teams. Their game against the Clippers on January 28 will provide the Dubs another opportunity to tighten their reigns around their presumptive Western Conference crown.
The All-Star starters and reserves were selected this past week, garnering much debate around the NBA. Not naming Isaiah Thomas as an All-Star starter caused much speculation within New England, but not as much as the atrocity of Russell Westbrook not being named an All-Star starter. Averaging a triple double with 30 points was clearly not good enough to be voted in by the fans, media, and players; a decision that should bring the new All-Star voting system into question.
The reserves were exactly who we thought they were with the new additions of Gordon Hayward and Deandre Jordan to the Western Conference squad. Any debate around the snubbing of Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum requires one look at the standings to see why they didn’t make the team. For the umpteenth year in a row, Mike Conley is missing out playing on All-Star weekend despite having another solid season as Memphis’s 150 million dollar man.
Out East, Joel Embiid was the biggest Snub from the team, but it’s safe to say this won’t be his only chance he has to make the All-Star team, with the upside Philly has shown recently. Kemba Walker finally broke through the glass ceiling, making his first All-Star team, averaging 23 points a game on 45% shooting for a Charlotte team that would be doomed without him.
With less than a month to play until the All-Star Game, Wizards are starting to peak at the right time, with the Warriors and Cavaliers taking their foot off the gas pedal recently. The only question is whether they can sustain this run until the end of the season.
- I'm a 19-year old sophomore dual major in Journalism and Sports Management at Eastern Nazarene College. Born in Boston, MA raised in Brockton, and just happy to be here at NGSC Sports.