The Washington Wizards have come a long way since their season opening loss to the Miami Heat. Since their 107-95 loss to the Heat in the first game of the 2014-15 campaign, the Wizards have gone 18-5 and are one game back of the first seed in the Eastern Conference. To put their 18 wins into perspective, just two seasons ago, Washington did not reach that mark until first day of March.
The Wizards seem to be firing on all cylinders, as they have won five straight, their longest winning streak on the early season. Although a certain point guard in the Golden State has been garnering most of the MVP buzz, Washington's one guard should be in the conversation.
John Wall is arguably playing the best basketball of his career, hitting his outside shot and distrusting the ball masterfully. Wall is averaging 17.8 points and 10.6 assists, good for second best in the NBA. Wall's infectious energy and willingness to pass has rubbed off on his teammates, as the Wizards are second in the NBA in team assists with 19.4 a game.
The Wizards opponent has not shared the same success since their first encounter. The Miami Heat has limped to a 12-14 record through the first part of the season. The Heat has struggled to find their offensive identity, averaging 94 points a game, 26th in the NBA. Miami has also struggled to establish their presence in the paint, as they rank dead last in rebounds per game with 35.7.
Despite their scoring struggles, the Heat has been able to rely on 32-year-old shooting guard Dwayne Wade. Wade leads Miami’s scoring with 22.5 points, shooting 52.2 percent from the field. Wade is coming off his best game of the year, scoring 42 points in a losing effort against the Utah Jazz.
The Wizards have already avenged their season opening loss to the Heat with a convincing, 107-86, victory over Miami just 18 days ago. In a Southeast division that has been dominated by the Heat over the past four years, this season has looked like a passing of the guard, with the fast emergence of the Wizards and the slow decline of the Heat. Washington currently leads the division by a half game over the surprising Atlanta Hawks and has opened a wide margin between them and Miami.
Even with all their success over the past two seasons, the Wizards have not beaten the Heat on the road since April 2012. A win for Washington in American Airlines Arena would further cement that times are changing in the Southeast division and for the entire landscape of the Eastern Conference.
Washington may still be without small forward Paul Pierce, who is nursing a toe injury and missed his first game of the season on Wednesday. The Wizards did not miss a beat on Wednesday, as they inserted Otto Porter into the starting lineup for the first time in his career.
Porter did not look out of place, as he scored 10 points and five rebounds in the Wizards’ 109-95 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Veteran backup small forward Rasual Butler renaissance year continued, as he recorded a team-high 23 points against Minnesota.
With their superstar point guard and forward depth, the Wizards looks to win their sixth straight and continue their rise as an elite team in the Eastern Conference. Miami and Washington are set to tip-off at 7:30 p.m. EST.