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Wizards embark on pivotal 12-day road trip
12 days, five games, nearly 4000 miles.
A day after wrapping up their longest homestand of the season, the Wizards embarked on their longest road trip of the season Tuesday afternoon ahead of a Wednesday night matchup with the Hornets in Charlotte. It’s a pivotal trip for Washington, which sits in a tie in the win column with Miami for the fourth seed in the East with 44 games in the books.
The narrative of the first half of the season has usually been some combination of 11 games without John Wall and a near-.500 record against sub-.500 teams. Certainly, the former had something to do with the latter. But now that Wall is back and at full-strength, the Wizards have an opportunity to exact some revenge in the second half, and it starts on a bit of a retreat from D.C.
This stretch of five games may well serve as an important bridge to a tough schedule in the second half, where 13 of the Wizards' remaining 38 games (just over a third) will come against teams currently in the top four spots in their respective conferences. Moreover, 24 of those remaining 38 are against teams occupying a playoff spot as of January 16. With just two such games in this upcoming five-game stretch, Washington will want to find a spark before returning to D.C. on January 30 to take on Oklahoma City.
Fresh off of a long stay at home, WashingtonWizards.com’s Zach Rosen and Chris Gehring take a quick look at each stop along the 12-day road ahead...
January 17 - Wizards at Hornets – 7:00pm (NBCSW/1500 AM) ZR: The Hornets came back on November 22 to beat the Wizards in overtime in Charlotte. The Wizards will head back to Charlotte to start their five-game road trip against a Hornets team that is 6-4 in their last 10 games after starting the season 11-21. Steve Clifford will also return to coaching the Hornets after missing 21 games. Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard lead the Hornets, while Jeremy Lamb and Michael Carter-Williams excelled in the last matchup between these two teams. John Wall always loves playing in front of friends and family near his hometown of Raleigh; he’ll be ready to put on a show.
January 19 - Wizards at Pistons – 7:00pm (ESPN/1500 AM)
CG: Washington has matched up well with the Pistons for a couple of seasons now, and this season hasn’t been much different. The Wizards are 2-0 against Detroit this season, with both wins coming at home in D.C. Andre Drummond and co. have been significantly better on the their home floor (especially on defense) this season, and the Pistons are equipped with enough talent to win on any given night. Tobias Harris (18.2 points per game) has been excellent this season, Avery Bradley has been a thorn in Washington’s side in the past and Stan Van Gundy is a great coach. This one can’t be overlooked, and the Wizards won’t take it lightly.
January 22 - Wizards at Mavericks – 8:30pm (NBCSW/1500 AM)
ZR: Back in November, the Mavericks really took it to the Wizards in D.C. during a 3-1 homestand. The Mavericks started the season 8-23, but have gone 7-7 in their last 14 games. The biggest reason for that has been improved shooting from Harrison Barnes (19.5 PPG, 49.5% FG), Dirk Nowitzki (14.0 PPG, 49.7% FG), and Yogi Ferrell (10.9 PPG, 50.4% FG). Dallas is a deep team that does not rely on the same players night in and night out, as Rick Carlisle is one of the NBA’s top coaches. Washington has struggled against Dallas in recent seasons, but the Wizards should be able to lock down the Mavericks.
Wizards at Thunder – 8:00pm (TNT/1500 AM)
ZR: The Wizards and Thunder will meet for the first of two games in six days in OKC on the 25th. Entering Wednesday, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder are 16-8 since December 1. Westbrook has averaged a triple double (27.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 10.3 APG) has carried the team, while Steven Adams has been the team’s most important role player in that stretch (63.8% FG, 14.5 PPG, and 9.2 RPG). Paul George is still one of the most dominant two-way players in the NBA, while Carmelo Anthony can heat up at any time. The court will be full of stars in this national television showdown, with Andre Roberson’s a health an important thing to watch.
Wizards at Hawks – 7:30pm (NBCSW/1500 AM)
CG: Washington’s 14-point loss the last time they visited the Hawks didn’t sit well. At 12-31 entering play on Tuesday, Atlanta is tied for the worst record in the NBA. At home, the Hawks have scored plenty but have posted the fourth-worst defensive rating in the league. The Wizards admitted that their focus has waned against lesser opponents this season, and with home dates with the Thunder and the Raptors following this one, they’ll want to make sure they take care of business to finish the road trip strong. The key to this one is simple, and it’s all about the Wizards playing their game.