Preview: Wizards close first half Thursday vs. Clippers
In their final game before the All-Star break, the Wizards host the Clippers on Thursday at 7:00 P.M. at Capital One Arena. Washington is coming off two consecutive losses on Sunday and Tuesday. For the Clippers, their matchup with the Wizards will cap a five-game road trip to end the first half of the season.
Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, G – Garrison Mathews, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Moe Wagner
Clippers: G – Patrick Beverley, G – Paul George, F – Kawhi Leonard, F – Nicolas Batum, C – Serge Ibaka
Wizards: Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Ish Smith (right quadriceps strain – out)
Clippers: Kawhi Leonard (back spasms – available), Marcus Morris Sr. (concussion – out), Patrick Patterson (personal reasons –out)
Wizards look to close tumultuous first half with a win
After a red-hot run in the second half of February, winning five straight and seven of eight, the Wizards have dropped their last two games. A gutting, one-point loss in Boston on Sunday and a one-sided defeat at the hands of the Grizzlies on Tuesday leave Washington with one game to recapture their positive momentum before the break. Despite sitting just four games back of the four-seed in a tightly packed Eastern Conference, the Wizards know they don’t have much leeway after a slow start to the season. The difficult second half of the season is densely packed with back-to-backs and long road trips.
“It’s important,” Russell Westbrook said on Wednesday after practice. “It’s especially important for us coming off a two-game losing streak, we want to make sure that we create some confidence and swagger for ourselves heading into the second half.”
Beal, Wizards not letting last matchup with L.A. linger
The Wizards and Clippers don’t have to look too far back in the game log to for their last meeting with one another. Los Angeles defeated Washington last Tuesday in the Wizards’ third game of a four-game road trip and the second night of a back-to-back. While neither Scott Brooks nor any of the players would lean on excuses after the game, the defeat was as much of a “schedule loss” as a team can have. Trailing by just five after a third quarter comeback, the Wizards couldn’t keep up with the Clippers in the fourth quarter. Westbrook, Bradley Beal and Moe Wagner each scored 20-plus points, but Washington couldn’t slow down L.A.’s dynamic duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who combined for 62 points.
“We know that wasn’t us and that’s not how we play,” Beal said of the team’s last matchup. “But we understand that (the Clippers) are a championship-caliber team. They’re going to come out and smack us in the mouth if we are not ready to go. We have to have the same approach that we’ve had the last couple games before this. That’s on the defensive end. We have to show our intensity and out identity on the defensive end – and let everything take care of itself.”
Clippers wrap five-game road trip in D.C.
Immediately after their last matchup with the Wizards, the Clippers hit the road for a five-game trip that ends Thursday in D.C. The Clippers have split games with the Grizzlies, with both games finishing with a margin of 20-plus points, and now lost consecutive outings against the Bucks and Celtics, each by five points. Leonard, who scored 32 points on 13-20 (.650) shooting in the teams’ meeting last week, did not play on Tuesday night in Boston due to back spasms will make his return to the court Thursday against the Wizards. With the former Finals MVP sidelined, Reggie Jackson slid into the starting lineup and scored 25 points on 10-14 (.714) from the field and 5-6 (.833) from three, the most points he’s scored in a game since February 7, 2020. Additionally, Washington will have to contend with L.A.’s prolific bench, which ranks fourth in the NBA with 39.9 points per game.