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As much as things keep spiraling out of control for the New York Knicks, they seem to be slowly improving for the Washington Wizards. Carmelo Anthony and his Knicks were once again victim of a home invasion on Monday night as Washington waltzed into Madison Square Garden and took the W. New York dropped to 4-9 at home and 7-17 overall but let’s not focus too heavily on the abomination in the Big Apple, when we can look seven Eastern Conference rankings higher at the Wizards, who might just be seeing a light at the end of their long tunnel.
Since the franchise was born in 1961, Washington have had a combined 1883-2345 record for a .445 winning percentage. They have not made the playoffs since 2007 and even after this win over New York, they sit at 10-13 and a very familiar .435 in the percentage column. This season however, the goal simply has to be a playoff berth and even more so than ever being in the weak Eastern Conference. While Washington may not be one of the “sexier” playing destinations, they have made a number of roster moves over the past 3-4 years in a genuine attempt to get better. The nucleus of John Wall, Nene and Marcin Gortat isn’t really what you’d call “Miami-esque” but when you add this next guy into the mix, the potential starts to emerge.
Sophomore guard Bradley Beal returned to action in New York after missing nine games through injury. He punctuated his return by leaving opponent Beno Udrih in his dust late in the game, converting the go-ahead lay-in to seal an important road victory for his team. While the Knicks defense was just awful, this victory away from home was a big step for the Wiz who were 7-34 on the road last season.
Check out Beal’s handiwork here …
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Although this season is only 23 games young for Washington, Beal has already assumed a much larger role on the team and is already rewarding the faith shown in him. In eight more minutes per game, Beal is contributing 6.7 more points with improved shooting percentages, especially from beyond the arc. His numbers are up in every standard stat category bar fouls and turnovers which will nearly always occur with a boost in playing time.
Alongside fellow young gun John Wall, this exciting Wizards back court is contributing 40.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 12.5 assists per game. Beal is pushing some serious weight on offense alone, shouldering over 20% of the Wizards points production in just his second NBA campaign.
Note: Beal is posting these numbers while only attempting 2.6 free throws per game. If slashing to the basket and getting to that line can becomg his “thing”, that scoring efficiency will only improve.
It’s the little things in a season that can define its success and New York just might have lit a fire under the Wizards. Last season in the East, the struggling Milwaukee Bucks were a whopping 28 games behind their Conference leader in Miami yet still snuck their way into that elusive 8th seed. Over in the stronger West, both Utah and Dallas accumulated more wins than the Bucks but missed out on the post season. Tough luck for the Jazz and Mavs? Yes. An opportunity for Washington to strike in a weak Conference this season?
Winning road games has been a big problem for a while though. Since the 2008-09 season, Washington are a combined 36-161 in games played away from the Verizon Center. No matter how you spin that story, it’s still just awful. This season Washington are slightly improved on the road at 4-8 but this scalp in New York, at the Mecca of Basketball and without interior stalwart Nene might just be the springboard they need.
Washington’s next three games are all on the road as they visit Brooklyn, Boston and Minnesota respectively. These are all winnable games if they play to their potential, considering Nene is likely to return. Even completing this nicely started four-game road trip with three wins would send a message to the rest of the league. Washington has the chance now to let everyone know that they are no longer an agreeable house guest.
Something surely has to give in the Big Apple sooner rather than later … but meanwhile Beal and his Wizards are aiming for “top dollar”, which for them would be that elusive playoff berth in 2014.
Let’s spin that wheel!