The Wizards miiiiiiight be really, really bad.
Both squads are coming off back-to-backs, but the Knicks just beat the Pistons while the Wizards lost to the Sixers. They managed to do this despite the fact that Joel Embiid, who is by far their best player, did not play. It was bad.
On the other hand ... this feels like a major a trap game. I don’t know if that’s a thing for basketball, but I don’t really care — I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who is unreasonably nervous about this one.
The Wizards have combined a bad offense (23rd in offensive rating) with a below-average defense (19th in defensive rating) to form a unique singularity of mediocrity and disappointment. While their schedule hasn't been particularly easy, it's no excuse for a 2-8 start. Bradley Beal is apparently a piece of fine china from your grandma's old collection, and he's unsurprisingly questionable with a hamstring injury. John Wall will play, though, and he only played 28 minutes last night, so he'll be relatively fresh compared to New York's starters (KP played 40 minutes, and Melo played 37). That could be a problem, especially because Rose is at such a size disadvantage. Just try to remember what it was like to watch Jose Calderon play defense as Rose is carved up. Derrick will at least get a couple of good contests. Probably.
Everywhere else, it's kinda messy for the Wizards. If Beal does play, he'll probably lay waste, as usual; other than him, everyone else in their starting lineup just screams "mediocre". Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter, and Markieff Morris are just so "meh" that I'm drawing complete blanks for my usual array of stupid insults that I would never dare say to their faces anyway.
Also, their bench might be worse than ours (feels really good to say that). We'll see good ol' Jason Smith and his dumb hair again, so that's something. Besides that? Trey Burke, Marcus Thornton, Kelly Oubre Jr., and some guy named Sheldon McClellan who started for them last night. Andrew Nicholson is their backup center, as prized free agent acquisition Ian Mahinimi is currently sidelined. It's pretty bad; so bad, in fact, that some poor kid was caught on camera, crying, as the crushing reality of losing to the Sixers set in. Sad stuff. This was a classy cry, too — kid didn’t even take a selfie. Much respect.
That being said...the Wizards have secured their only two wins when they were playing at home, as they will be in this one. They have John Wall, who is slowly becoming the DeMarcus Cousins of the East -- an unstoppable at his position, wasting away for a franchise that cannot succeed despite possessing a basketball marvel that they lucked into. He's gonna drop 20/10, and it's not really much of a question.
I don't see Courtney Lee or Rose keeping Wall and Beal out of rhythm well enough to truly shut them down, so it'll be important to limit the role players around them. Gortat is gonna get 10 points by virtue of marvelous pick and roll play from John Wall (Gortat has good hands and he's a nice finesse finisher to boot), but keeping him off the offensive glass is the real key. The other two, Porter and Morris, need to be kept in check. Both are mediocre shooters from 3 with some off-the-bounce game, which could be trouble for Melo and KP depending on how hot those guys come out.
With Porzingis likely fatigued, Carmelo may determine the outcome of this game, for old times sake. The bench will be the other barometer of success in this one. Look for Willy or KOQ, in particular, to have huge games; Nicholson will probably have some trouble containing them.
Prediction: Carmelo shreds Porter Jr. for his first 30 point game of the season. More than 50% of the Knicks bench finishes with a positive +/-. Brad Beal plays, only to reinjure his hamstring in the 2nd quarter, because the Wizards are incompetent and Beal's injury history is starting to remind me of 2016 Tony Romo.
Beal plays: Knicks lose, 108-104
Beal sits: Knicks win, 112-98