Preview: Wizards return home to face Hawks Friday night in D.C.
The Wizards host the Hawks on Friday at 7:00 P.M. in what will be Washington’s first home game since January 11. The Wizards are looking to snap a three-game losing streak while Atlanta is coming off an overtime loss to the Nets on Wednesday night.
Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, F – Jerome Robinson, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Robin Lopez
Hawks: G – Trae Young, G – Kevin Huerter, F – De’Andre Hunter, F – John Collins, C – Clint Capela
Wizards: Deni Avdija (health and safety protocols – out), Troy Brown Jr. (health and safety protocols – out), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Ish Smith (health and safety protocols – out),
Hawks: Bogdan Bogdanovic (right knee avulsion fracture – out), Clint Capela (right hand soreness – probable), Kris Dunn (right ankle surgery – out), Onyeka Okongwu (left Achilles soreness – available), Cam Reddish (right quad contusion – questionable), Rajon Rondo (left ankle sprain – questionable)
Wizards sticking together through tough stretch
Since January 11, the Wizards have postponed six games, seen six players sidelined due to health and safety protocols and have now endured a three-game losing since returning to action. There’s no shortage of adversity being played through across the league, but the Wizards’ challenging circumstances rise above the rest. Injuries to key contributors, a constantly changing rotation and a schedule in flux have headlined Washington’s season so far. But as they return to D.C. for their first home game in 18 days, the Wizards say their trust in one another and the belief they can turn things around haven’t wavered.
“When you’re facing adversity as a team or individually, it’s easy to just fall into that trap,” Bradley Beal said after Wednesday’s loss to New Orleans. “We know we’re a lot better than what our record is showing and we can’t feed into that. We can’t think that’s the type of team we are. Granted, reality is reality. But we also believe that we’re a lot better than that. We’re shorthanded. We hadn’t played in two weeks. We’re still getting back. There’s no excuse…We can’t feed into being 3-11, being that type of team. That’s not who we are. We know we’re better than that.”
“We’ve got great leaders,” Garrison Mathews said. “We’ve got Brad and Russ who are constantly on us to be better and being positive. It’s not like they’re just blaming people – they’re giving constructive criticism which we all need. We need to come together as a group and realize this is not acceptable. We’ll never be OK with losing. Just keeping that mindset that the beginning of the year won’t define us.”
Wizards to get reinforcements Friday night
The Wizards have been as hard-hit as any in the league when it comes to health and safety protocols over the last few weeks. Washington has played its last three games without Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith and Moe Wagner – but are expected to get some of the group back in action Friday. Washington announced Thursday that Bertans, Hachimura and Wagner would be available when the team takes on the Hawks. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said pregame that Hachimura would start.
While the Wizards were on the road earlier this week, those six protocol players remained in D.C., working through a ramp-up plan that would have them ready for game action as soon as they were cleared by the league.
“Our performance team, medical team and sport scientists have a really good game plan,” Brooks said on Wednesday. “We have coaches back (in D.C.) really working them out, simulating game minutes, a lot of the accelerations and decelerations are accounted for. Some of their workouts are equivalent to almost 25-30 game minutes…We’ll see how they feel. There’s a great chance that we’re going to have quite a few players back soon.”
Earlier this week, Wizards assistant coach Ryan Richman, who is in D.C. working out with players sidelined due to health and safety protocols, joined the Wizards Podcast Network’s Off The Bench podcast discuss the process of getting those players back in game shape.
Young leads streaking Atlanta offense
The Hawks’ offense is on hot streak. In their last five games, Atlanta ranks fifth in the league with a 115.7 offensive rating. In their last three games, they lead the league with a 60.5% true shooting percentage. Unsurprisingly, Trae Young leads the way for the Hawks’ offensive attack, averaging 36.8 points per game in his last four outings, highlighted by a 43-point game against Minnesota in which he tied a career-high with eight threes. When he’s not scoring, Young is likely setting up a teammate for a basket. Coming off a season-high 14 assists, he’s now averaging 9.7 per game in his last six games and ranks third in the league with a 43.4 assist percentage.