Since starting the season 7-13, the Washington Wizards have been the league’s second best team, going 21-7 since Dec. 8. They have the league’s sixth best offense and fifth best defense over the last six and a half weeks.
At the close of January, the Wizards are tied for fourth place in the East and holding the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Atlanta Hawks. And their February schedule should help the Wiz hold onto a top-four seed.
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Before the Wizards became a very good team, they were a very good team at home. And now, they’ve won 15 straight games at the Verizon Center. They’ve played four more games there (26) than they’ve played on the road (22), but that imbalance will continue this month.
The Wizards will play seven of their 10 February games at home. They do play six of their 10 February games against teams with winning records, but five of those six games are at the Verizon Center. The only road game against a winning team is in Indiana on Feb. 16 (the last day before the All-Star break), and the Pacers will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
The Wizards are one of two teams (Portland is the other) that doesn’t have a back-to-back in February. And the game in Indiana is one of three where their opponent will have played the night with cheap jerseys China before.
After starting the season by losing 20 of their first 26 games, the Mavs have gone 14-10 and are 9-3 since Jan. 12. The Heat, meanwhile, have gone from 11-30 to 21-30 with a remarkable 10-game winning streak.
Dallas has done it with an offense that ranks fourth in the league over those 12 games. Miami has done it with the league’s best defense over the course of their winning streak. Both teams have had a myriad of injuries and have needed to call on “Who He Play For?” names like Dorian Finney-Smith and Rodney McGruder jersey to play big roles.
Maybe those guys will be more familiar to casual fans if the Mavs and Heat make the playoffs. With the runs they’ve made, both teams are just two games out of eighth place in their respective conferences with more than 30 games to go. You could certainly make the argument that it would be better for their long-term outlook to be going in the opposite direction, but that can be difficult to do when you have coaches who can turn a M.A.S.H. unit into a cohesive one.
“I think so because I don’t think it affected the game,” Gansey said. “When you make changes you want to know how it’s going to affect the game. But in this situation it really didn’t affect the game. The hardest part is remembering that other person’s name. Instead of three, you’ve got four to remember. That was the biggest struggle for me. But it didn’t seem like it effected the game. I don’t think there were extra calls in the game. To me, the flow was perfect.”
The next step will be to collect data after the nine games, to see if the additional referee(s) led to more calls and slower contests, while also weighing logistics.
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Was a fourth or fifth referee able to move freely or did more bodies create a traffic jam?
What other tweaks are necessary to put the refs in better positions?
Where is the NBA getting 16 to 20 more officials able to work at the highest level due to Chinese jerseys, the number likely required if the move was introduced in the majors?
From there, the experiment could move to partial use in the Las Vegas Summer League and then back to the D-League next season, perhaps with a much longer run than nine games in one location. The one certainty among the many possibilities is that the concept is not about to be introduced in an NBA regular season.
“I think it’s too early to say, until we have completed the tests,” D-League president Malcolm Turner said. “But assuming we like the results and we feel like it’s a strong test and it does have some true merit and potential application down the road, I think absolutely you could see it spread as testing. Do I see that rolling out across the league in full? No, because I think you can still effectively test without having to expand your crew of referees across the league in its entirety. We would just have more meaningful sample sets, if you will. I think it’s too early to speculate in terms of to what degree we do it. We’ve only done it with wholesale china jerseys and a small sample size.”
It’s a start far from a conclusion. It’s still experimenting with the experiment.