Golden State Warriors (39-31) vs. Washington Wizards (25-43)
7:30 p.m. PST
Oracle Arena - Oakland, CA
TV: CSN Bay | Radio: KNBR 680
Blog Buddy: Bullets Forever
March Madness came a bit early for the Washington Wizards.
With last night's win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, the Wizards have now six of their last seven games and are playing their best ball of the season.
The Golden State Warriors really need to break up that momentum tonight.
The Warriors currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference, just a half game ahead of the Houston Rockets and three ahead of the eighth place Lakers who have made their way back into the thick of the playoff picture after a disastrous start to the season.
Games like tonight's - the first of a stretch of five of the next six against non-playoff teams - are games the team simply has to win, especially after the Lakers stumbled (again) last night to keep them at arm's length.
The last meeting with the Wizards was exactly the type of drama that I would hope not to see tonight: a potentially game-tying shot by rookie Bradley Beal was blocked by fellow rookie Festus Ezeli with just two seconds left to preserve a 101-97 road win, the team's third straight road win (hey you guys, remember that time when the Warriors won six of seven games on the road and we were all excited because Bogut wasn't even back yet?).
Four Factors statistics for the Warriors' 101-97 win over the Wizards on December 8, 2012 (via Basketball-Reference).
Both teams will look different than they did in that game at the Verizon Center back in December: the Warriors will have center Andrew Bogut at their disposal and the Wizards will have star guard John Wall back in the lineup. And if last night's game is any indication, Wall is starting to hit his stride a bit, as described by Satchel Price of SB Nation's Bullets Forever.
Actually getting to the rim was tough for Wall -- he made only two trips to the free throw line in the first 47 minutes -- but he continues to flash an improved jumper and his decision-making was superb. Any way you slice it, finishing with 24 points, 16 assists (career-high), six rebounds and just one turnover is a keeper of an effort...People have often wondered aloud whether the Wizards can be a winning team even with Wall at his best. In recent days, he's shown that's much very the case.
More impressive for Wizards fans was that Wall led the team to victor last night without the help of Beal, Emeka Okafor, and two others. And interestingly enough, the same thing they did well in their loss to the Warriors helped them get a win against the Lakers last night: they committed just 9 turnovers for the game (8.7%).
The Warriors have been a turnover prone team this season and even if they don't play a lick of defense tonight - it's ok guys, we're used to it and we love you anyway - narrowing that turnover differential that favored the Wizards in last night's game and in that December 8 loss would go a long way to making this a more comfortable home win.
Ultimately, that's what I think we're all looking for in this stretch of home games to finish out the season: comfortable wins against the teams the Warriors are "supposed" to beat to not only keep the team in the playoffs but provide us with some hope that the team can at least compete once there.
Let's end this up and down madness and just handle business.