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Wizards begin second half Friday night against Cavaliers
The Wizards (20-33) return from the All-Star break on Friday night at 7:00 P.M., taking on the Cavaliers (14-40) at Capital One Arena. For Washington, Friday is the start of a stretch of three games in four days that will conclude Monday night against the league-leading Bucks.
Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Ish Smith, G – Bradley Beal, F – Isaac Bonga, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Ian Mahinmi
Cavaliers: G – Collin Sexton, G – Darius Garland, F – Cedi Osman, F – Kevin Love, C – Andre Drummond
Wizards: Thomas Bryant (right foot soreness – available), Ian Mahinmi (right foot soreness – available), John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out)
Cavaliers: Alfonzo McKinnie (left foot Plantar Fasciitis – out), Dylan Windler (left lower leg stress reaction – out), Ante Zizic (illness – probable)
Wizards look to carry pre-All-Star momentum into the second half
The Wizards closed the first half on a roll, winning five of their last seven games, including an 18-point win over the Knicks in their last outing. Bradley Beal shined and Rui Hachimura returned from injury with a handful of impactful performances, but the most notable trend in Washington’s recent play has been its defense. Over those seven games, the Wizards registered the fourth-best defensive rating in the league (106.3). The team’s 96 points allowed against New York last Wednesday marked the fourth time this season holding their opponent under 100 points. Washington hopes that momentum will carry over into the second half – a daunting two-month stretch loaded with back-to-backs and matchups with playoff-caliber opponents. And while the team’s late in the first half now has them in the conversation for playoff contention, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks says the team’s objectives haven’t changed.
“We’re going to focus on doing what we’ve done all year—getting better every day,” Brooks said Wednesday. “With all the things that went on this year, I’m proud of our guys’ effort and no-excuse mentality and Brad [Beal’s] leadership. It’s been a tough year with a lot of injuries, but we battled and fought and played competitive when we had a lot of guys out. Now we’re getting guys healthy. The playoffs are always the goal. I’m assuming all 30 teams want to make the playoffs. We’re no different, but we’re not going to skip steps.”
Hachimura aims to build on strong first half
Since returning from a groin injury that caused him to miss 23 games, Rui Hachimura hasn’t missed a beat. He’s appeared in five games, played at least 23 minutes in each, scored in double figures in four of the five and notched a 20-point performance in a win over the Bulls. Since day one, Hachimura has added a useful wrinkle to the Wizards’ fast-paced offense: a versatile frontcourt threat capable of handling in transition, scoring in the paint and consistently hitting from mid-range. Hachimura’s first half included a 30-point game, six 20-point games and three double-doubles. He’s already proven to be one of the league’s most promising rookies despite having his first half interrupted by injury.
Hachimura missed the Wizards last meeting against the Cavaliers, a 12-point win in Cleveland on January 23. He did, however, suit up in their first meeting in November, playing one of his best games of the season, scoring 21 points on 10-13 (.769) shooting to go along with seven rebounds.
Bickerstaff to make Cavaliers debut
Cleveland closed the first half of the season with a win over Atlanta, but was just 1-12 in their prior 13 games. Over the All-Star break, the team parted ways with head coach John Beilein, who was in his first season with the team. J.B. Bickerstaff, who assumed Beilein’s head coach duties, will make his debut Friday night against the Wizards. Bickerstaff has coached in the league since 2004, mostly as an assistant, but has an 85-131 record as a head coach.
The coaching swap is not the only substantial change the Cavaliers have undergone over the last couple weeks. The team acquired Andre Drummond, the league’s leading rebounder, in a deadline day deal with the Detroit Pistons, adding to a frontcourt that already featured Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Drummond has started in each of his two appearances since joining Cleveland, recording double-doubles in both. Drummond is averaging 15.8 rebounds per game and has totaled double-digit boards in all but four games this season.