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Wizards face Cavaliers Thursday night in Cleveland
Coming off an overtime loss last night in Miami, the Wizards (14-29) made the late-night flight to Cleveland for a matchup with the Cavaliers (12-32) at 7:00 P.M. on Thursday night. The road back-to-back is the team’s fourth of the season and the longest by distance traveled. The Wizards enter Thursday’s matchup looking to snap a five-game road losing streak.
Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse| 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Isaiah Thomas, G – Gary Payton II, G – Bradley Beal, F – Thomas Bryant, C – Ian Mahinmi
Cavaliers: G – Darius Garland, G – Collin Sexton, F – Cedi Osman, F – Kevin Love, C – Tristan Thompson
Wizards: Rui Hachimura (groin injury – out), Garrison Mathews (sprained right ankle – out), Anzejs Pasecniks (sprained left ankle – available), Moritz Wagner (sprained left ankle – out), John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out)
Cavaliers: John Henson (low back soreness – probable), Brandon Knight (left knee soreness – out), Kevin Porter Jr. (left knee sprain – out), Dylan Windler (left lower leg stress reaction – out), Ante Zizic (illness – out)
Red-hot Beal looks to continue success in back-to-backs
Bradley Beal enters Thursday night’s game against the Cavaliers coming off one of his best games of the season – a 38-point, nine-rebound, five-assist showing last night in South Beach that included 25 points in the second half and overtime to lead the Wizards’ comeback. Beal struggled from deep, hitting just 2-8 (.250) from 3-point range, but was nearly unstoppable in his attempts to get to the rim, hitting 10-12 (.833) from within 10 feet of the basket. The game was Beal’s fifth this season with at least 35 points, five rebounds and five assists, which trails only James Harden, Luka Doncic and Trae Young.
“(Beal) just does so many things well,” Heat forward Jimmy Butler said postgame. “You have to always be alert. Whether it’s off the dribble, off the catch, pick-and-roll or post up. That’s what All-Stars and superstars do.”
Beal has played well this year in the second game of back-to-backs, averaging 29.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in four such games. Most recently, on the back end of Washington’s Toronto-to-Philadelphia back-to-back in mid-December, Beal totaled a game-high 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Beal has scored 20-plus points in his last five games against the Cavaliers, including a 31-point, seven-assist performance in the Wizards’ last game in Cleveland.
Mahinmi doing a little bit of everything
After missing over a month while rehabbing an Achilles injury to open the season, Ian Mahinmi has now started the last 20 games for the Wizards and has improved in that role with each passing week. In his last six games, Mahinmi is averaging 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, impacting the game on multiple levels and filling a frontcourt role the Wizards have been missing all season as big men have rotated in and out due to injury. Mahinmi’s peaks – a 25-point game against Miami on December 20 and a 21-point game against Detroit on Monday – mark the only two 20-point games of his 11-year career, but what has defined his recent run has been his ability to do a little bit of everything. Since January 1, in Washington’s 11 games, Mahinmi has six games with at least seven rebounds; four games with at least three assists, including a career-high seven against Utah on January 12; six games with multiple blocks and three games with multiple steals. His do-it-all production from the center position has helped stabilize the Wizards’ rotation and will be in demand Thursday night against a multidimensional Cavaliers frontcourt of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.
Cleveland’s cold streak
The Cavaliers come into Thursday’s matchup having lost five in a row, 10 of their last 12 and are coming off a 20-point loss to the New York Knicks. Since December 31, the start of its losing stretch, Cleveland ranks last in defensive rating (117.3) and second-to-last in net rating (-10.8) and opponents have shot over 50.0% from the field in four of their last five games. The Wizards will have to keep in check second-year guard Collin Sexton, who has played the best basketball of his career over the last three weeks. Sexton is averaging a team-high 22.4 points in 35.0 minutes per game since January 1. He has vastly improved his long-range shooting in that time, shooting 46.3% from deep in January, up from 27.3% in his first 33 games of the season.