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Wizards in Cleveland in search of fourth straight win
The Wizards have been taking care of business. They’ve won three straight overall and the first two games on their current four-game road trip, and while none of the wins have come against teams over .500, they’ve come at a necessary time. Washington started the season 2-9, and now sits at 11-14 on the season entering another game against a struggling Cavaliers team.
Of course, LeBron James is now a Laker, and that has left a void in Cleveland that’s impossible to fill in one offseason. In addition, the now-rebuilding Cavs (5-20) have dealt with injuries all season, making wins even harder to come by with a shorthanded team on many nights. They’ll also play the second half of a back-to-back Saturday, which adds up to another good opportunity for the Wizards to climb closer to the .500 mark on the season.
Quicken Loans Arena | 7:30 P.M. | NBC Sports Washington + | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – John Wall, G – Bradley Beal, G/F – Tomas Satoransky, F – Otto Porter Jr., C – Thomas Bryant
Cavs: G – Collin Sexton, G – Rodney Hood, F – Cedi Osman, F – Larry Nance Jr., C – Tristan Thompson
Wizards: Dwight Howard (L4-L5 lumbar microdiscectomy procedure – out), Jeff Green (lower back soreness – questionable)
Cavs: Kevin Love (left foot surgery – out), David Nwaba (right knee soreness – out), JR Smith (personal – not with team), Rodney Hood (foot – questionable)
In addition to winning three straight, the Wizards have won nine of their last 14 games. Over that span, they’re 10th in the NBA in offensive rating (109.9), fifth in AST/TO ratio (1.89), and third in opponent turnovers (17.0). That last number has helped supercharge the offense, and Washington’s played at the league’s third-fastest pace in its last 14 games. The even better news for the Wizards is that the turnaround has started while the 3-point shot has continued to lag at just 32.6%. They’ll hope to use Saturday as an opportunity to get in a rhythm from beyond the arc.
Friday night, the Wizards completed a three-team trade with the Bucks and Cavaliers that sent Jason Smith and George Hill (via CLE) to Milwaukee, John Henson (via MIL), Matthew Dellavedova (via MIL) and picks to Cleveland, and forward Sam Dekker (via CLE) to Washington.
The Wizards will certainly miss Jason Smith’s veteran presence on the bench, but they’re excited about the chance to work with Dekker, a first-round pick in 2015. Currently dealing with an ankle sprain, Dekker has dealt with injuries throughout his young career. But his size (6’9”) and athleticism still make him an intriguing prospect. He’ll presumably join the Wizards on Saturday in Cleveland.
Know Your Opponent
Cleveland has lost six of seven since it recorded impressive back-to-back wins over Houston and Philadelphia. That alone makes the Cavs a team the Wizards can’t overlook, but Cleveland’s youth and inconsistency will certainly be a disadvantage over a Washington team that’s hungry to continue gaining momentum. When the two teams met in mid-November, the Wizards ran away with a 119-95 victory in D.C. So far this season, the Cavs have posted the worst defensive rating in the NBA, all while struggling to score with a 105.8 offensive rating (26th in the league).
As for players to watch, Jordan Clarkson (16.3 points per game) and rookie Collin Sexton (14.8 points) headline the Cavaliers. They also recently acquired guard Alec Burks from Utah in a trade that sent Kyle Korver to the Jazz, and Burks poured in 22 points Friday night in a loss to Sacramento. Tristan Thompson (11.8 points, 11.8 rebounds) and Larry Nance Jr. (7.4 points, 6.6 rebounds) form a frontcourt that will make the Wizards earn it on the glass, but Cleveland lacks depth outside of the guard position.