By: Lawrence Dow, Sports Editor (@LJeeeeezy)
After a tumultuous season full of ups and downs, the Washington Wizards are back at full strength for the first time in months as the NBA regular season comes to a close.
Wizard’s superstar John Wall came back a little over a week ago after missing two months since injuring his knee. Surprising many pundits, the Wizards initially improved after Wall went down with his injury. Over the first 14 games after Wall was injured, in which they won 10 games and lost four, the Wizards were exceptional. They slowed down after that torrid start, finishing with five wins and eight losses in the last 13 games before Wall returned.
Wall’s return started off promising with a 107-93 victory over the Charlotte Hornets but has quickly soured, like so much has for the Wizards this season. The Wizards have lost every game since that initial victory, and have lost four out of their last five games. The Wizards are in disarray at the worst time as the playoffs are quickly approaching and there is a good chance the Wizards will have to play the top seeded Toronto Raptors instead of playing the second seed Celtics who recently lost their star player, point guard Kyrie Irving, to injury for the rest of the season.
The Wizards, if they want to turn their season around before the playoffs, will have to improve their late game execution. Out of all the teams in the playoffs no team has a worse record in the clutch than the Wizards. The clutch of the game is defined as the last five minutes wherein no team has a lead larger than five. The Wizards record in such games is 21-23, which explains why the Wizards are the eight-seed in the east. The Wizards have had problems executing as of late, going 6-12 since the start of March, and are currently winless in April.
A big part of their struggles have been the late game performances from their two best players, John Wall and Bradley Beal, who have not performed up to their ability in late game situations. In clutch situations, Beal is shooting only 30 percent from the field and an abysmal 20.5 percent from three, this all while averaging the eleventh most shots taken during clutch. Meanwhile, Wall shoots 34 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from three. Combined they take 69 percent of the Wizards clutch shots while only making 32 percent of their shots overall. In simpler terms, Beal and Wall both take and miss a lot of shots at the end of the game which works to tank the Wizards offense and make it next to impossible for them to score late in games. This is why only four teams shoot worse than the Wizards do at the end of close games.
With only one game left in their season, it seems unlikely the Wizards will be able to turn around their season at this late junction. If the Wizards were to face the Raptors and lose in the first round, it would be extremely hard to classify this season as anything but a disappointment. The Wizards came into the season with much loftier ambitions than the eighth seed in the eastern conference. While the Wizards will be playing post-season basketball this year unless they drastically change the way they’ve been playing as of late, it will be a very short trip for them. The Wizards will need their two stars to up their play at the end of games if they hope to upset either the Raptors or the Celtics.