Two teams trending in opposite directions, the red-hot Washington Wizards play host to the struggling defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in a suddenly important Eastern Conference showdown. Rarely does a game played in early February have this sort of magnitude, but a win for the Wizards would send waves around the league and put the rest of the Eastern Conference on notice.
After limping to a 6-12 start to the season, the Wizards have picked up their play tremendously over the past two months, riding a 17-game home win streak and winning their last seven games overall. The change has been due to their resurgent offense, one that has scored over 100 points in 29 consecutive games. They’ve been getting contributions from all over the floor, from Otto Porter’s stunning three-point shooting prowess to Markieff Morris’ Draymond Green of the East act, the Wizards are as well-balanced of a team as it gets and can score in a multitude of ways.
The engine that makes it go is and will always be John Wall though, as his recent play on both ends has him quickly inserting himself into the MVP conversation. The synergy that has blossomed from him and fellow backcourt mate Bradley Beal has been awesome to watch this year, making the proclamation that Washington has the best backcourt in the league not sound as crazy as it did just a few short months ago.
Cleveland has seen better times. The Cavs are coming off their worst month since LeBron’s return. A lethargic and uninterested January led to a 7-8 record, filled with more legendary LeBron sound bites than quality play.
They still sit atop the East standings, but the impressive play from Washington and other teams have them a bit concerned. The Cavs still have the best team on paper, but they can’t skate through the regular season this year based on how good the Wizards, Celtics and Raptors are on their respective home floors. Games like this throughout the season will provide that extra cushion each team needs down the stretch to capture the all-important home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Cleveland needs to treat it like a playoff game, or they will be rudely awakened by this hungry Wizards squad. Wizards take this one to extend their winnings streak to 18.
Prediction: 117-111 Wizards
Image Source: Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports