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Wizards vs. Cavaliers: It's time for Washington to win a road game
The elite teams have two or more proven finishers. Good teams have at least one. The Wizards have none.
Wall is a future star point guard who should eventually receive preferential treatment from referees, possibly as early as next season, but he's still learning he doesn't always have to show he's the fastest person on the court with the ball in his hands. Referees generally won't reward rookies while they're still refining things, and the immensely talented Wall is a work in progress.
This wasn't unexpected. Saunders realizes he would seem a lot brighter to some Wizards fans if he had Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to close road games. Second-tier finishers such as Atlanta's Joe Johnson or New York's Amare Stoudemire also would have made a big difference at the end of Washington's last 26 games in opponents' arenas.
For a young team like the Wizards, still in search of its identity, proving to themselves that they can get over the top in a hostile arena could provide an enormous boost.
Against Cleveland, Washington likely has its best chance to "get the momentum going" on the road, said Patrick Cohn, a sports psychologist based in Orlando. "Sometimes it can be one game where things really click for your team and you can spark that momentum and you can spark that confidence."
The opponents' home-court advantage Sunday won't be as tilted as usual against the Wizards because the Cavaliers are, well, the Cavaliers. Cleveland has the league's worst record after having its best in each of the previous two seasons.
But the Cavaliers haven't given up. They proved as much in ending their losing streak in overtime against the Clippers on Friday night. Now, the Cavaliers don't want the Wizards' road streak to end on their floor. The Wizards have to expect a fight. And if they are ready, this is one they can win on the road.
"A lot of our young guys have not been in pressure, playoff-type situations," Saunders said. "This is as close to a playoff game because of the pressure from both teams. You're gonna see how guys would react."
Washington is a long way from the playoffs, but the point is understood. It's time the Wizards accomplished something on the road.