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Wizards take on Cavaliers on Friday
The Wizards (2-5) will look to secure their second consecutive home win Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers (2-5) at 7:00 P.M. at Capital One Arena. The game marks the first of three meetings between the teams this season. Washington is looking to bounce back from a road loss to the Pacers on Wednesday night while the Cavaliers, who haven’t played since Tuesday night against Boston, aim to snap a three-game losing streak.
Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | ESPN / NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Isaiah Thomas, G – Bradley Beal, F – Troy Brown Jr., F – Rui Hachimura, C – Thomas Bryant
Cavaliers: G – Darius Garland, G – Collin Sexton, F – Cedi Osman, F – Kevin Love, C – Tristan Thompson
Wizards: John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out), Ian Mahinmi (right Achilles strain – out)
Cavaliers: John Henson (right hamstring strain – out), Dylan Windler (left lower leg, stress reaction – out), Ante Zizic (left foot plantar fasciitis – out)
High-scoring night ahead?
If recent series history and the first two weeks of the season are to be any indication, Friday night’s matchup forecasts as a high-scoring affair. The Wizards have shot 47%-or-better from the field and scored 110-plus points in each of their last 10 meetings with the Cavaliers, but have gone just 5-5 in those games. Bradley Beal, coming off a 30-point performance on Wednesday, has had no trouble finding offensive success against Cleveland. Beal averaged 25.8 points and 7.0 assists per game against Cleveland last season and enters Friday’s matchup with three straight games against Cleveland with 25-plus points and five-plus assists.
Through two weeks, both defenses have struggled to find their footing. The Wizards rank 27th in defensive rating (112.5) while the Cavaliers sit at 23rd (110.4). The Wizards’ offense, on the other hand, has held its own, ranking fifth in the league in offensive rating (109.5), led by Beal’s 27.0 points per game and a bench that averages 48.6 points per game (second in the NBA). While Wizards fans shouldn’t expect a repeat of the 317 total points scored between Washington and Houston last week, Friday’s game will not feature a shortage of offense. Expect a fast-paced, high-scoring matchup.
Free throws could be a deciding variable
With a roster loaded with youth and new faces, the Wizards cannot afford to miss out on opportunities for easy points this season. Thus far, Washington has converted on those opportunities, hitting 84.1% of their free throws, good for third in the league. The Wizards hit all 19 of their free throw attempts against the Pacers on Wednesday night, becoming the first team this season to shoot 100% from the line in a game. Their issue, however, has been volume. The Wizards rank just 27th in the league in free throw attempts per game (20.7). Cleveland won’t make bucking that trend easy, either. The Cavaliers are committing just 18.7 personal fouls per game (lowest in the league), and allowing their opponents only 18.3 free throw attempts per game, the second lowest number in the league.
How will a changing rotation impact the offense?
Bradley Beal and Isaiah Thomas are one of just five pairs of teammates in the league averaging six-plus assists per game, setting the pace for an offense that ranks fifth in assists per game (25.7) and tied for sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio. The duo also ranks 1-2 on the team in usage rate, leading a group of wings and stretch bigs that have accounted for most of the roster’s remaining production thus far. Ish Smith, who started the first five games of the season, has been a reliable, steadying facilitator, but represented the Wizards only true guard depth the last handful of games. With Jordan McRae once again healthy and Troy Brown Jr.’s role increasing, how the infusion of even more capable ball handlers impacts the Wizards bench production, minutes distribution and offensive flow is yet to be seen. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks announced Thursday that forward Isaac Bonga would come off the bench against the Cavaliers. Brown Jr., whose role has steadily grown over the last few games since returning from injury, is a prime candidate to replace him in the starting rotation.