The 0-2 Washington Wizards have given up 130 points in the paint after two games, and starting center Nene will likely continue to sit with a calf injury which kept him out of Friday's 109-102 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. To make matters worse, starting point guard John Wall is dealing with a bad back. Next up is the Miami Heat, in a Sunday evening road game in which the Wizards can trump the 2013 Champions and pick up their first win of the 2013-14 season.
FINDING A BALANCE FROM THE WING
Martell Webster had only a single shot attempt in Wednesday's opener, but he stepped things up Friday at home with a 3-for-7 from deep night. He also had 2 steals and a block, but Washington couldn't get a final steal late and instead committed turnovers of their own which sealed the game in favor of the Sixers. Trevor Ariza, who has started for Washington at small forward, had an amazing first game, and a dismal, 1-for-7 from deep night Friday. For a Wizards win tonight, the Ariza-Webster duo will need to find a balance, providing Washington with at least 30-35 points from the wing.
"We have to learn," said Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman after Friday's home loss. "I have got to figure out a way. You can see it coming out of the locker room. You've got to respect the game. We came out, obviously in the first half and got after it. We created turnovers and held them to 40 percent shooting. And then, the second half there was absolutely none. Our guards were picking up their guards at the free throw line. No pressure on the wings. We created nothing defensively in the second half. We're just gonna come out and play and think we're gonna win the game. This has happened over and over and over and I've got to figure it out."
PLUGGING UP THE PAINT
Miami has averaged 36.6 in the paint after three games, but expect the 1-2 Heat to test the road faring Wizards as they work on "figuring it out." To get what Washington needs, they'll need to work on different defensive schemes, perhaps even zone defense. A key component of that defense is going to be Marcin Gortat, who has not filled in as nicely as the Wizards might have wanted thus far. It's still early, and he's new to the team, but he will not ever provide the same kind of stability provided by Emeka Okafor, and the main upside should be on the offensive end, where Gortat has committed 7 turnovers after two games.
"I would say it's getting better; it's not perfect," said Gortat, after Friday's game. "Obviously I'm learning to play with these guys, I'm learning to play with John who is super fast. At some point when I'm setting a screen by the time I open up he's already at the rim. He doesn't even need me to roll to the basket. I'm just learning."
While Nene remains out with a calf injury, Gortat has the unfair microscope pointed down at him as he tries to fill in for both Nene and Okafor at the same time. He isn't the same defensive player as Okafor, but he, at his best, should provide Wall and the Wizards with some flexibility off the pick n' roll. The question is whether he and Wall can gel, and unfortunately for Washington, the clock is ticking.
Tonight's game starts at 6:00 p.m. ET on CSN.