By: Jacob Raim
The Wizards will be going for their fifth win in a row as they head to Detroit to take on the Pistons (7:30 pm | TV: CSN | Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM). Detroit leads the season series 2-0, taking both legs of a home and home against Washington in mid-December.
The Wizards will look to continue their hot play as they have taken down four consecutive teams that are currently in position for a playoff spot. On Monday night, the Wizards went into Milwaukee and shot the ball incredibly well, 56.8%, in defeating the Bucks 102-90. The FG% was the highest the Bucks have given up all year. Bradley Beal scored a career high 28 points, becoming just the third teenager in the last 30 years to come off the bench and score at least 28 points. Nene, Okafor and Wall all had double-doubles. The Wizards also held their ninth straight opponent under 100 points, continuing their excellent defensive play this season.
The Pistons have been a bit of a 'Jekyll and Hyde' team over their last couple, getting blown out at home by the Hornets in their last game but also being the only team to beat the Spurs in their last 14 contests, performing that feat three games ago. In between those games, the Pistons also grabbed a 105-100 win over the same Bucks team the Wizards took down on Monday. Against the Hornets Monday night, the Pistons allowed Ryan Anderson to score 31 in losing at home, 105-86. Greg Monroe was his usual outstanding self, scoring 17 and grabbing 11 boards.
When these teams played in mid-December, it was under different circumstances. The Wizards and Pistons met for a home and home with the Pistons blowing out the Wizards 100-69 in Detroit and then taking the Wizards 96-87 in a more competitive contest in DC. John Wall was obviously unavailable for both of the contests and in the first one, the Wizards were without Beal, Nene, Ariza, Booker and Price as well, a regular MASH unit. Monroe was solid but unspectacular in both contests, with the Pistons employing a scoring by committee approach in the two games.
This will be a slightly different look Pistons than when the Wizards last saw them. Gone is Tayshaun Prince and in the fold is Jose Calderon. Calderon has been a steadying influence at the point in his five games in Detroit and has allowed Brandon Knight to play off the ball. Kyle Singler has had to step in at the small forward spot after playing shooting guard for most of the year and is not the same defender on the wing that Prince is. This could potentially allow for some good looks for Webster and Ariza.
Outstanding rookie Andre Drummond will also miss the contest for the Pistons. He averaged almost a double-double in January, shooting 63% and added over two blocks per game. His absence changes the Pistons game plan on both offensive and defense. He's been a reliable low post option for them, teaming with Monroe to give defenses fits in the blocks with two potentially dominant big men. It's on defense where the miss his presence more though as he has grown into a serious deterrent to teams going inside on the Pistons. This is due to his physical play in the post and his ability to consistently alter shots. Neither Monroe nor Villanueva are shot blockers, which Drummond makes up for when healthy.
Stopping Greg Monroe will be the number one priority for the outstanding Wizards defense. He is one of the most complete centers in the NBA and has been at his best in February averaging 18.7 points and 12.6 rebounds. The Pistons feed him the ball as much as they can and the Wizards interior defense will need to be at their best. Expect the Wizards to provide Okafor help and double on him whenever they can and force him to pass out of the post.
The action kicks off at 7:30pm from the Palace at Auburn Hills.
Two players who will be playing together come Friday in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on Team Chuck will go head to head tonight. Brandon Knight spent the first half of the year playing the point and has been now moved over to the shooting guard spot in deference to Jose Calderon whom the Pistons acquired from the Raptors. Bradley Beal may not be in the starting lineup yet but should see the vast majority of the minutes at the shooting guard spot. Knight, the sophomore and Beal, the rookie, have very similar stats this season but Beal has seen his numbers rise while Knight has struggled some with the transition to playing off the ball.
Brandon Knight has averaged just 5.5 points over his last two, shooting just 21% and has only scored in double figures twice in his five starts at shooting guard. He will be looking to break out of his short scoring slump against Beal, who exploded for a career high 28 points on Monday night and has been the Rookie of the Month for the Eastern Conference in both December and January. Knight is extremely quick and gets most of his points from driving to the basket. His jump shot is inconsistent and he is definitely most dangerous off the dribble. He has great length for a two guard and is a tough on the ball defender. Expect Beal and Knight to have an exciting matchup, attacking each other all night.
In this clip, Bradley Beal banks a three at the close of the first quarter against Brooklyn.
In the clip below, Beal chases down Luke Ridnour for the block from behind and then hits a jumper on the other end.