The Cleveland Cavaliers have lost six in a row, had their general manager, Chris Grant, fired Thursday and now everyone is on the hot seat with unhappy owner Dan Gilbert.
A victory against them at Verizon Center on Friday should be a slam-dunk, but this is precisely the kind of game the Wizards (24-24) have been prone to losing this season. Remember the Milwaukee Bucks (Dec. 6) and Boston Celtics (Jan. 22)? Layups that turned into, as center Marcin Gortat called it, an "embarrassment." Washington has been on a hot streak, winning two of their last three games vs. the top three teams in the superior Western Conference.
A win gets them back over .500 for the second time this season.
"Every team like that is dangerous. That's the teams coming in with a chip on their shoulder and they definitely want to get a big win," Wizards point guard John Wall said after practice. "Those are the games you got to go out there and win if you want to be a playoff team."
On Nov. 16, the Cavaliers trailed by 15 points and had been winless in six road games, but Kyrie Irving matched a career high with 41 points to bring them back. Irving is the starting point guard for the East All-Star team, ahead of Wall, because of the popular vote from fans. But Irving is far from the only weapon for a team that recently acquired Luol Deng in a trade with the Chicago Bulls. Tristan Thompson and Jarrett Jack also were instrumental in that comeback though the Wizards (24-24) won the rematch four nights later in Cleveland.
Still, in that game, the Wizards squandered a 27-point lead midway through the third quarter to win by just seven.
"They're a dangerous team. They can score. Any time you can score in this league with Deng coming over now, they've inserted Jack into the starting lineup with Kyrie, (Dion) Waiters off the bench can score," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "C.J. Miles can score. (Anderson) Varejao is the glue from a defensive standpoint. Tristan Thompson.
"They're a very good rebounding team. We're going to have to have a good defensive effort. That's the main thing. We've got to win this game defensively and not just get in an up-and-down of a game of saying, 'We're going outscore you.' You can't think that way because this team can score."
After upsetting the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers consecutively, the Wizards dropped a 125-118 double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. It was a game they led by as many as 17 points that they let get away, and not having a letdown because it's just Cleveland is paramount.
"Like Witt said, the biggest game for us is tomorrow to see if we can continue to play the way we've been playing against these West coast teams," said shooting guard Bradley Beal.