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Wizards' tough road trip begins in Miami
Coming off a winning homestand, the Wizards will begin a three-game road trip on Friday night in Miami at 8:00 P.M. The Wizards and Heat will match up for the third time this season, with the teams splitting the season series thus far. Washington won the previous matchup in Miami on November 10 on the second night of a back-to-back. The Heat are 7-3 in their last 10 games after starting the season 11-15.
The Wizards will be without John Wall (out for season) and Markieff Morris (out at least six weeks) for the foreseeable future. For the Heat, Dion Waiters made his season debut on Wednesday against the Cavaliers, while Goran Dragic remains out with right knee surgery. Dwyane Wade, who missed Wednesday’s game, is questionable with an illness.
AmericanAirlines Arena | 8:00 P.M. | NBC Sports Washington | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Tomas Satoransky, G – Bradley Beal, F – Trevor Ariza, F – Jeff Green, C – Thomas Bryant
Heat: G – Justise Winslow, G – Josh Richardson, F – Rodney McGruder, F – James Johnson, C – Hassan Whiteside
Wizards: Dwight Howard (aggravated gluteal soreness – out), John Wall (left heel soreness – out), Markieff Morris (transient cervical neuropraxia – out)
Heat: Goran Dragic (right knee surgery – out), Dwyane Wade (illness – questionable)
Tough stretch begins
On Friday, the Wizards will begin a stretch of six tough games before the team heads to London in mid-January. After the Heat, the Wizards will play the Thunder and Sixers on the road and host the Sixers, Bucks, and Raptors. All five opponents are well within the playoff picture, with the Thunder, Sixers, Bucks, and Raptors considered title contenders. The Wizards have yet to face the Bucks, but have played the other four teams already this season. Still, the Wizards have a completely different rotation and style now due to injuries and trades, which will make it interesting against some of the league’s top teams.
Figuring it out on the road
The Wizards are 11-7 at home, including 8-2 in their last 10 games at Capital One Arena, but come into Friday’s game without a road win since December 5. Bradley Beal acknowledged after the win over the Hawks that the Wizards that the team has three very tough road games ahead of them. It helps that Washington has already won on the road in Miami this season, but all three arenas are tough places to play. On the season, the Wizards are scoring 9.4 fewer points on the road than at home, and giving up 119.3 points per game away from Washington. In order to get going again away from Capital One Arena, the Wizards need to focus on defense, create good shots, and bring maximum effort. The Wizards are 4-16 on the road this season, but Friday presents another opportunity to right the ship. The Heat are surprisingly only 8-11 at home this season.
Know your opponent
Miami has been a top-10 defensive team this season, holding opponents to 105.7 points per 100 possessions and 43.7% field goal, third best in the NBA. On the other hand, the Heat rank in the bottom third in the NBA in offense, only scoring 107.0 points per 100 possessions. Miami is only shooting 43.8% from the field (28th) but has made 36.1% of its 33.4 3-point attempts per game, both of which rank eighth in the league this season. Seven different players are shooting 35% or better from deep this season, which makes defending the perimeter the biggest key to stopping them.
In terms of changes since last time these teams played, Justise Winslow has been inserted at point guard with Goran Dragic out with right knee surgery. Winslow is averaging 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game in his last five games. He embodies the versatility the Heat has played with during the Erik Spoelstra era and has become a much better shooter. Wayne Ellington, one of the league’s top shooters, has struggled to get playing time as of late. As aforementioned, Dion Waiters will be playing in only his second game of the season on Friday.