By: Jeremy Hyman
The Wizards begin a four games in five nights stretch on the road when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at Quicken Loans Arena (7:00 pm | TV: CSN+ | Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM). The Cavs lead the season series, 2-0.
The Wizards could be without Bradley Beal for the fourth consecutive game as he continues to rehab a sprained left ankle which he suffered on March 3rd vs. Philadelphia. If he can't go, look for additional minutes from Garrett Temple and Trevor Ariza, who have filled in as starters and done an admirable job in Beal's absence over the last week.
The Cavs will also be without one of their young studs, as their leader Kyrie Irving was just diagnosed with an AC sprain in his left shoulder and is expected to miss the next three to four weeks. This is a devastating blow to a team that relies on Irving for much of its offense. He leads their team in both points (23.0) and assists (5.7) per game.
With Irving out, the Cavs could use former Wizard Shaun Livingston as their starting point guard as they did two weeks ago when Irving missed time with a knee injury. When asked to fill in, Livingston did a nice job as a starter, scoring in double figures in all three games (13.3 ppg) and logged 33 minutes in each contest. He is a capable scorer and his length can be an issue, but there is no doubt the Cavs will miss Irving running the show.
While the Cavs will certainly miss Irving, they are not without other young stars, as three of their starters were members of the Rising Stars Challenge back in February. Dion Waiters has had an excellent rookie campaign, averaging close to 15 points per game. The fourth pick out of Syracuse has shown an explosive first step and his ability to get to the basket has translated from the college level to the pros. He took the Rookie of the Month award in the month of February after Beal had won the award for December and January. The Cavs front line of Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller also has a chance to be one of the more formidable tandems over the next decade. This influx of youth has given the Cavs a strong outlook for the future.
In their last 11 road games, the Wizards have held their opponents to under 100 points. This marks the longest such streak in the NBA this season. The last time the Wizards held 11 straight opponents on the road to under 100 points was February 15-March 24th of 2002 (13 straight).
The Wizards have yet to beat the Cavs this year and that was something Randy Wittman discussed after practice on Monday. John Wall was also aware of this fact and said that his team needs to start beating teams with losing records along with simply taking down the league's best. They did that on Saturday, where they blew out the Bobcats in a 104-87 rout at Verizon Center. They got back to moving the ball on offense and saw great shooting performances from both Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza.
This is the first of two sets of back-to-back games as the Wizards begin a four games in five nights stretch this week. After tonight, the Wizards return home for three straight at Verizon Center against the Bucks, Hornets, and Suns.
The action kicks off at 7pm tonight in Cleveland.
Nene continues to be a rock for the Wizards on the low post, even as he battles through a shoulder injury that sidelined him for a couple of games at the end of February. He is coming off one of his best games of the season, where he tallied 19 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, and two blocks in Saturday's win over Charlotte. It was his fifth straight game scoring in double figures and his 39th time doing so this season.
Opposite Nene will be the young Tristan Thompson, who now in his sophomore season is nearly averaging a double-double with 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He is long and athletic and can pose matchup problems against bigger power forwards in the league such as Nene. Likewise, Nene will need to use his strength and bulk to his advantage and try and take advantage of Thompson on the post.
In the below clip, Nene does work on the low post.
In this clip, Nene gets fancy with his passing.