The Wizards moved to .500 on the year after a dominating performance, especially on the defensive end, which saw them upend the Magic at home, 98-80. The Wizards have now won seven of their last nine and five straight at the Verizon Center. This was the best defensive effort of the year for the Wiz as the 80 points the Magic scored was the lowest number of the year for an opponent and Orlando shot just 39% from the field. The Wizards jumped all over the Magic early, going up 15-2 in the opening moments but the Magic closed the gap by the end of the first quarter. That would really be the last time the game was close though, as the closest the Magic got in the 2nd half was seven and they were never within single digits in the fourth quarter. Wittman was able to limit his starters' minutes as Washington cruised to victory, as Wall played a season low 29 minutes. He was certainly effective in those 29 minutes though, going for 16 points and 13 assists. Wall is now second in the NBA in games with 10+ assists with eight and the only man ahead of him in that regard is Chris Paul. Trevor Ariza had another impressive and efficient offensive performance, scoring 24 points on 8/9 shooting. He was also 4/4 from beyond the arc, making him a scorching hot 9/10 from long range over the Wizards' last two games. The Wizards' starting bigs, Nene and Gortat, also got into double figures with 14 and 13 respectively. The bench got more minutes than usual in this one as noted before, and were more effective than they've been of late, scoring 26 points led by Singleton's 11. The team now gets a much deserved three nights off after nine games in 14 nights before taking on the Bucks at home on Friday. - Jacob Raim
The Wizards have a chance to do something tonight that they have not done since 2009. Be a .500 team.
The last time the Wizards were .500 was during the 2009-10 season, when they opened the year 2-2. This would be the first time since the 2007-08 season they would reach the .500 mark at least 18 games into the year.
The Wiz enter tonight's game with an 8-9 record and a win over Orlando could propel them into the #3 seed in the East! With the Hawks playing in San Antonio tonight, the Wizards very well could pass them in the standings and at 9-9 hold the third best record in the Eastern Conference. That's hard to believe after starting 2-7, but that is the current state of the conference.
More important than record or seeding, the Wizards have played better basketball over the last two weeks. The team defense has improved and it has resulted in a 6-2 record over the team's last eight games. Maybe even more impressively was that the team went 4-0 during that two week stretch on the second night of a back-to-back. Tonight will be the team's ninth game in the last 14 days, but after tonight the schedule lightens up a bit as the Wiz have three straight days off both this week and next.
If the Wizards want to reach .500 tonight, they'll have to beat a Magic team that features one of the youngest rosters in the league. Orlando has eight players on their roster with less than three years of NBA experience and one of their few veterans may be out tonight as Jameer Nelson is questionable with a sprained foot. If he can’t go, they'll likely move Victor Oladipo down to the point guard spot, which will make for an entertaining battle with John Wall. Oladipo was known to be a lockdown defender while playing at Indiana, but there were not many guards in the Big Ten who could move like Wall, so we'll see how the rookie holds up tonight. This will be Oladipo's first time playing back in Washington D.C as a pro. He grew up just a few miles up the road in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
John Wall talked about facing Oladipo and the Magic:
Besides Oladipo, two guys to keep an eye on tonight for Orlando are Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic. Affllao has been a nice player for a few years now, but has turned it up to another level this year averaging over 21 points per game. He's scored at least 16 points in 11 straight games, so expect him to be the focal point of the Magic offense. As for Vucevic, he's turned into on of the bright young centers in the east, but is coming off a tough night against Tim Duncan and the Spurs where he committed eight turnovers. Look for the former Magic center, Marcin Gortat, to try and take advantage of the younger Vucevic on the post tonight.
On the injury front, Nene told the media at shootaround that although his Achilles is still sore, he’ll be out there tonight to help his team win. Bradley Beal (fibula), Otto Porter (hip), and Al Harrington (knee) will all be out again tonight.
Randy Wittman talked about facing a young, but talented Orlando team in his pregame availability:
begins at 7pm, we'll see you there.