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Wizards face Hawks in Porter's return
The Wizards will begin 2019 by hosting the Hawks on Wednesday night. Washington will look to end their homestand on a winning note before beginning a three-game road trip. The Wizards and Hawks have split the season series so far, with two games remaining. Otto Porter Jr. is expected to return after missing 10 games, while Markieff Morris remains out for Washington. The Hawks will be without two of their best wings in Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince.
Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | NBC Sports Washington | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Tomas Satoransky, G – Bradley Beal, F – Trevor Ariza, F – Otto Porter Jr., C – Thomas Bryant
Hawks: G – Trae Young, G – TBD, F – Kevin Huerter, F – John Collins, C – Dewayne Dedmon
Wizards: Dwight Howard (aggravated gluteal soreness – out), John Wall (left heel soreness – out), Markieff Morris (upper neck/back stiffness – out)
Hawks: Kent Bazemore (right ankle sprain – out), Dewayne Dedmon (left knee soreness – probable)
Otto Porter Jr. is expected to play for the first time since December 10, returning from a right knee contusion that plagued him for weeks. The Wizards have missed Porter’s shooting and defensive versatility. Adding him back into the starting lineup alongside Tomas Satoransky, Bradley Beal, and Trevor Ariza will allow the Wizards to switch effectively ‘1’ through ‘4’ alongside Thomas Bryant. In addition, Porter gives Washington another scorer who can make shots from all over the court and finish effectively around the rim. The Wizards are better on both offense and defense when Porter is on the floor versus when he is not. Porter is only averaging 11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this year, but expect those numbers to increase as he becomes the second option on both offense and the glass.
Passing, passing, passing
Without John Wall, a key isolation scorer and elite playmaker, the Wizards have no choice but to play a different style offensively. Wall was among league leaders in drives and drawing fouls at the rim and could create offense on his own. Now that Wall’s been ruled out for the season, Bradley Beal will be the focal point of the offense, but he can’t do it by himself. The Wizards will need to rely on sharing the ball more, creating offense on screens, cuts, and other offensive sets. On the season, the Wizards rank 24th in passes per game (281.9) and 11th in assists per game (25.1). However, in their last two games without Wall, Washington leads the league in passes at 344.0. and fifth in assists at 28.5. Expect the Wizards to continue to have to spread the ball around against the Hawks on Wednesday and beyond. The Wizards are 7-1 this season when they dish out 30 or more assists in a game.
Containing Collins, defending perimeter
Hawks forward John Collins is coming off the best month of his career, averaging 21.3 points and 12.8 rebounds per game on 57.3% from the field. Collins had double-doubles and both games against the Wizards in December. The Wizards will need to contain the Hawks on the glass and limit the Hawks’ second chance opportunities, which Collins often sparks. Atlanta often plays with Collins and another center on the floor, presenting interesting matchups against a Washington team that likes to play small. The Wizards are undefeated this season when out-rebounding their opponent.
Atlanta attempts the fourth-most 3-point attempts in the NBA, taking 34.8 triples per game. They may only shoot 34.8%, but Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Jeremy Lin, and the ageless Vince Carter are all big-time shooters from beyond the arc. In the Wizards’ loss to the Hawks, a few weeks back, Atlanta made 12-of-32 (37.5%) from deep. Opponents are shooting 37.0% from three against the Wizards this season; however, the Hawks are giving up 37.5% from beyond the arc, the second-worst mark in the league.