Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
Wizards visit Hornets for crucial game on Friday
The Wizards (27-37) have won two straight heading into Friday’s critical matchup in Charlotte, the first of a road back-to-back that culminates Saturday night in Minnesota. Washington has split its series with the Hornets (29-35) so far this season, but lost their last trip to the Spectrum Center in February. The two teams will meet for a fourth and final time next week in D.C.
Spectrum Center | 7:00 P.M. | NBC Sports Washington + | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Tomas Satoransky, G – Bradley Beal, F – Trevor Ariza, F – Jeff Green, C – Bobby Portis
Hornets: G – Kemba Walker, G – Nicolas Batum, F – Miles Bridges, F – Marvin Williams, C – Cody Zeller
Wizards: Dwight Howard (L4-L5 lumbar microdiscectomy procedure – out), John Wall (left achilles tendon tear – out)
Hornets: Bismack Biyombo (left knee sprain – probable)
With 18 games remaining in the season, the Wizards are still looking up at Miami (No. 8), Orlando (No. 9), and Charlotte (No. 10). They trail the Heat by three games and the Magic and Hornets by two games. With two games remaining on the schedule against Charlotte, both Friday’s matchup and next week’s meeting with the Hornets are going to be golden opportunities to directly impact playoff positioning as the teams head down the stretch. Washington also has one more game remaining against the Magic next Wednesday. Friday continues a pivotal week for the Wizards’ playoff hopes.
Charlotte has only won two of its past nine games, and while one of those two games was hosting the Wizards, Kemba Walker and co. are struggling in the midst of a brutal stretch of their schedule. The Wizards have won three of four, turning around a recent four-game losing streak. Still, Washington has struggled all season on the road (8-25) and has lost four straight when visiting the Queen City dating back to January of 2017. Led by Walker’s 25 points per game (Jeremy Lamb’s 15.2 points are the next closest), the Hornets’ net rating is nearly zero, as they don’t necessarily score or defend particularly well. That also means that they’re in nearly every game they play, and the Wizards know that they can’t be taken lightly, especially on their home floor where they’re 20-14 this season. The only elite team stat the Hornets bring into Friday’s game is their 12.7 turnovers per game, the second-lowest rate in the NBA this season.
All-Stars collide again
When the Wizards and Hornets first met this season (a 130-126 Washington win in D.C.), All-Star starter Kemba Walker poured in 47 points to nearly win the game on his own. In their second meeting, Bradley Beal scored his season-high 46 points in a 123-110 loss, keeping the Wizards in the game singlehandedly until a late run created some space.
Both teams will look for more balanced efforts that they put together in their respective wins in the season series, and a big key for the Wizards will be creating and scoring off of turnovers. They’re the second-best team in the NBA at the former (forcing 16.5 points per game) and the fourth-best at the latter, scoring 18.9 points per game off of miscues. In their December victory over Charlotte, the Wizards scored 21 points off of 16 Hornets turnovers. Seven reached double-figures in one of the most balanced scoring nights of the season for Washington, with Tomas Satoransky, Thomas Bryant, and Jeff Green all tallying 20+ points. Beal *only* scored 19.