John Wall has a theory to explain why the Washington Wizards have fumbled the first game of back-to-back sets this season.
“Have I played [in] a lot of those?” Wall said, answering a question with a question.
Well, no. Wall did not dress for the first four games and barely saw the floor on Dec. 22 in Brooklyn, as Coach Scott Brooks elected to rest him. In the five road games, without a healthy Wall, the Wizards have compiled a 1-4 record on the first nights of back-to-backs but a 4-1 mark on the second night.
“Then that’s it,” Wall concluded, stifling a grin. “I think that’s a big key, just to be honest.”
On those first nights, the Wizards have failed to reach 100 points and twice have lost by 35 or more. That could change Friday night when the Wizards (21-16) visit the Memphis Grizzlies and Wall, who has missed 11 games this season, will fully participate in his first back-to-back set.
Since Wall has returned to the starting lineup after recovering from plasma-rich platelet and viscosupplementation injections in his left knee, Washington has won eight of its 11 games, including victories over the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets, a pair of contenders. Beyond those highlights, the Wizards achieved significant wins over the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks, two teams currently not among the top eight teams in the East.
Over the last two games, the Wizards appear to have curbed a season-long trend in losing to teams with records under the .500 mark. On New Year’s Eve, they outplayed the hard-working but 13-win Bulls down the stretch. Then on Wednesday, Washington sent the Knicks spiraling to an 18-20 record.
“Nobody criticizes themselves more than us. So, we’re aware of it but we know that our job isn’t finished,” Bradley Beal said after the 121-103 win over New York. “We know that we still have more to prove.
“We just got to continue to keep the momentum going, continue to stay in the moment and do it together.”
Before declaring that the Wizards’ problems are fixed or that the inclusion of Wall should right all that ails the Wizards on the first night of consecutive games, Memphis, the 14th ranked team in the Western Conference with a 12-26 record, could disrupt this narrative.
“We still have to focus on playing every game,” Brooks said. “I know we won the last two games, that’s great. We should go into every game expecting to win and playing hard and giving ourselves a chance to win. If you don’t play hard you have no chance. But I thought we have been the last two games. Since John has been back we are 8-3 now. Hopefully that continues, but it’s not going to get easier. We still have a tough road trip coming up. Memphis, back-to-back late game. Coming back the next night at our place. We are going to have to play well. I like what we are doing. We are defending and moving the ball.”
Read more on the Wizards and NBA: