The similarities between the Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers, two losing teams that haven’t made the playoffs in several years, are striking.
As both teams rebuild, they’re doing so around their guards.
The Wizards, who last appeared in the postseason in 2008, have John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Cavs, who haven’t appeared since 2010, answer with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
Unfortunately, Beal (sprained left ankle) and Irving (sprained left shoulder) already have been declared out of Tuesday’s game, the teams' third and final meeting of the season (CSN+, 7 p.m. ET).
Wall didn't begin his season until Jan. 12 because of a left knee injury and missed the first two meetings, both losses for the Wizards (20-41). He was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. Irving was No. 1 overall the following year for the Cavs (21-42).
"This is our last opportunity. We're 0-fer against these guys. We've talked about that," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who is using their 94-84 and 87-84 losses to the Cavs as motivation. "About establishing ourselves and doing it right from there start. That's where we get in trouble."
Irving is more advanced than Wall because of his offense. An All-Star selection in his second season, he averages 23 points and 5.7 assists per game. He’s also at 46.7% shooter from the field and makes 40.7% of three-point attempts.
Wall is averaging 14.1 points and 7.1 assists but shooting only 41.4% from the field and just 11.1% from three-point range. After Beal had a slow start, he has taken off since Wall's return to the lineup.
“Them two are two talented players and me and Brad are getting our chemistry down pat,” Wall said. “We're going to play against each other like four times a year. So it's going to be great to see that matchup and see how far it goes.”
Beal, a rookie, was taken No. 3 overall, just one spot ahead of Waiters in the 2012 draft. The proximity lends itself to a natural rivalry between the two. Both are starters on teams that have had spirited postseason clashes, when the Cavs had LeBron James and the Wizards were led by Gilbert Arenas.
“He’s been pretty good. He’s been a big factor for their team, scoring-wise. When Kyrie is out he’s definitely carrying the scoring load for their team,” said Beal, averaging 14.2 points and shooting 40.9% compared with Waiters’ 14.7 points and 41%. “He’s been having a great year. He’s showing why he’s the No. 4 pick … which is competitive to me. It just shows that he’s competitive and he wants to prove himself to people. I definitely have the same mentality. He’s a great competitor. I’m going to be playing against him for the rest of my life. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Beal looks forward to the duos competing at a higher level and making history against each other when more is on the line.
“Just because of the pace and the different things we all can do, it’s going to be crazy. It’s definitely going to be competitive. It’s going to be ugly at times. We’re going to go at it,” Beal said. “That’s the type of ballplayers we are. We all love to win.”