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Wizards-Cavaliers preview: Cleveland rocks


Wizards-Cavaliers preview: Cleveland rocks

Matchup: Washington Wizards (6-8) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (13-4)

When: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. (TV: CSN, CSNMidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra) 

When last we met: First game this season. Washington lost last season's series 1-3 after winning the opener 91-78 at Verizon Center.

Streaks: The Wizards are clearly in the midst of some early season struggles, having lost four straight and seven of 10. Saturday's setback, 84-82 at home against the Toronto Raptors on Cory Joseph's 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining, was the biggest emotional dagger of the bunch. ...While not playing at a championship level, the Cavaliers are simply racking up the wins. LeBron James scored 26 points in Saturday's 90-88 thriller over Brooklyn for Cleveland's second straight victory and fifth in six games.

Three things to to watch

1. Blooming Love -- There are a few things teams look for if deploying a "stretch" power forward. At a base level, effective 3-point shooting, rebounding and quick feet defensively. Nobody will think of Kevin Love as graceful, but the Cavaliers big man brings those other components and does so better than most. The 6-foot-10 forward is shooting 40.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc this season. What makes that percentage even more impressive is that he's not been shy about firing away. Of the top 40 league leaders in terms of percentage, only Stephen Curry, Kyle Lowry and Paul George have attempted more 3-pointers than Love's 118. Meanwhile he's grabbing 11.8 rebounds per game while averaging 19.8 points. All of those numbers are up significantly compared to stats from last season, his first in Cleveland. Stretch-4's have been a handful for the Wizards this season, which partially explains why Washington switched up its lineup against Toronto with Jared Dudley starting over Kris Humphries.

2. Help from Hollins -- The Wizards added 7-footer Ryan Hollins to the roster Monday while waiving swingman Martell Webster. That's a clear sign that Nene (calf) won't be available in the near future, but also that Washington desired more rim protection. Opponents are shooting 60.2 percent from the field inside of five feet against the Wizards, the third highest mark in the league. Though he rarely played heavy minutes during his NBA career, the lengthy Hollins averages 1.6 blocks and 6.6 rebounds per game based on 36 minutes per contest. The former 2006 second-round pick by Charlotte played 94 games over two seasons in Cleveland starting in 2010. (He was traded from the Timberwolves to the Cavaliers along with current Wizards teammate Ramon Sessions.) Hollins averaged a career-high 17 minutes per game with the Cavaliers during the 2010-11 season. Hollins, 31, has attempted only one career 3-pointer -- he missed it -- so this is certainly not another attempt at generating more perimeter shooting help from the frontcourt. 

3. Home Sweet Home -- For the most part, teams play better on their own turf, or rather, hardwood. It's impossible to play at home than the Cavaliers so far. Through nine games, Cleveland is 9-0 at Quicken Loans Arena. Last season, the first with James back in Ohio after his infamous exit to South Beach, Washington lost both games in Cleveland. Overall, the Wizards have lost 12 of 16 on the road in this series.

RELATED: Morning tip: For Wizards to end skid, Wall shifts focus to himself

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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