Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
Wizards begin two-game trip Wednesday against Bulls
The Wizards (13-26) begin a two-game road trip Wednesday night in Chicago, taking on the Bulls (14-27) at 8:00 P.M. in the teams’ second meeting of the season. Washington has won three of its last five games and played eight of its last nine at home. The Bulls enter Wednesday’s matchup having lost seven of their last eight games, including a road loss to the Celtics on Monday night.
United Center | 8:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Isaiah Thomas, G – Gary Payton II, G – Bradley Beal, F – Isaac Bonga, C – Ian Mahinmi
Bulls: G – Tomas Satoransky, G – Zach LaVine, F – Kris Dunn, F – Lauri Markkanen, C – Daniel Gafford
Wizards: Rui Hachimura (groin injury – out), Garrison Mathews (sprained right ankle – out), Moritz Wagner (left ankle sprain – out), John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out)
Bulls: Ryan Arcidiacono (right elbow discomfort – probable), Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle sprain – out), Daniel Gafford (left ankle soreness – probable), Chandler Hutchison (right shoulder soreness – probable), Luke Kornet (right thumb sprain – probable), Lauri Markkanen (left ankle sprain – probable), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot fracture – out), Tomas Satoransky (left ankle soreness – probable), Max Strus (left knee ACL surgery – out)
Beal’s return adds pop and flexibility to Wizards offense
After missing five straight games with lower right leg soreness, Bradley Beal made his return to the lineup Sunday against the Jazz, scoring a team-high 25 points on 11-25 (.440) from the field in 27 minutes of action. Beal came out hot, scoring eight of the team’s first 12 points. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said before the game the Beal would be playing under a minutes restriction as he worked his way back to full strength and has yet to comment on whether or not that restriction would carry into Wednesday’s game against Chicago.
“It felt good,” Beal said. “The biggest thing is just being out there with my teammates. Just being able to get a rhythm, get up and down. (It) felt good for sure.”
In Beal’s only prior matchup of the season against the Bulls, he shot just 4-19 (.211) from the field, but managed 14 free throw attempts, seven rebounds and assists. This season, Beal has been asked to carry a heavy offensive load for the Wizards, and – as is the case with most NBA players – has seen a slight dip in his efficiency as his usage and volume have spiked. With the Wizards’ roster and rotations evolving by the week, Beal’s ability to do a little bit of everything, much like he displayed in his first meeting with Chicago, could prove vital to the team’s flexibility throughout the second half of the season.
Rotation questions loom as Wizards begin to get healthy
Beal wasn’t the only player returning to the lineup this weekend. Thomas Bryant, Sunday against Utah, and Davis Bertans, Friday against Atlanta, each returned from lengthy injury-related absences. Since early-to-mid December, the Wizards – in the frontcourt alone – have been without Bryant, Bertans, Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner for various stretches of time. In their absences, Ian Mahinmi, who missed time with an injury of his own earlier in the season, returned and has served as the Wizards’ primary source of post defense. Anzejs Pasecniks, who joined the organization on a two-way contract earlier in the season, operated as Mahinmi’s primary backup and proved himself to be a serviceable presence in the paint – so much so that he earned himself a multi-year NBA contract announced Sunday before Washington’s game against Utah.
With Bryant, Mahinimi and Pasecniks all healthy and ready to contribute, Brooks will have to get creative with the frontcourt rotations. Each of the three bring something different to the table: Mahinmi is more of a bruising defender, Bryant is more agile and active pick-and-roll threat and Pasecniks does a little bit of everything (and happens to be 7’1” while doing it). Brooks has praised this team’s chemistry and ability to gel throughout adversity all season – and Wednesday’s game against Chicago should give the team an opportunity to work the group into familiarity with each other before a pair of games against two of the more imposing frontcourts in the league: Toronto and Detroit.
LaVine’s scoring streak – and what it means for the Bulls
Zach LaVine comes into Wednesday’s matchup on one of his hottest scoring stretches of the season, having tallied 30-plus points in three of the last four games and 20-plus in seven straight. Included in that stretch is last Friday’s showing against the Pacers – a 43-point outburst in which LaVine shot 14-23 (.608) from the field and 8-13 (.615) from deep. In the last four games, LaVine is averaging 32.5 points per game on 51.2% from the field and 42.9% from three. However, in that four-game stretch, Chicago’s only win came in LaVine’s lone sub-30-point scoring night, a 25-point game in a nine-point win over Detroit. All season long, LaVine’s offensive volume has not paralleled team success. In fact, the Bulls are just 1-7 in games in which he takes 24 or more shots and are 4-2 in games in which he takes 13 or fewer shots in a game, including a pair of 20-point wins.
The Wizards held LaVine in check in their only prior meeting this season. He managed 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, but shot just 6-23 (.260) from the field and 1-8 (.125) from 3-point range in the Bulls win.