Preview: Wizards host Hornets Tuesday looking for third straight win
The Wizards are back in action on Tuesday night, hosting the Hornets at 7:00 P.M. at Capital One Arena in the second game of a home back-to-back. Washington is coming off a win over the Pacers in which Russell Westbrook recorded the first 35-point, 20-assist triple-double in league history. Charlotte is coming off an overtime loss to Phoenix that snapped a three-game winning streak.
Washington will be without Bradley Beal (right hip contusion) and Raul Neto (left rib contusion), who were previously listed as game-time decisions. Beal missed Monday night’s game against the Pacers after suffering the hip injury on a fall in the third quarter of the Wizards’ game against the Pistons on Saturday night. Jerome Robinson will start in Beal’s place.
Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW+ | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Jerome Robinson, F – Deni Avdija, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Alex Len
Hornets: G – Devonte' Graham, G – Terry Rozier, F – Gordon Hayward, F – P.J. Washington, C – Bismack Biyombo
Wizards: Bradley Beal (right hip contusion – out), Davis Bertans (right calf strain – out), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Daniel Gafford (right ankle sprain – out), Raul Neto (left rib contusion – out) Ish Smith (right quadriceps strain – out)
Hornets: LaMelo Ball (right wrist fracture – out), Malik Monk (right foot soreness – probable)
Injury-riddled Wizards face Hornets on short rest
The Wizards will be wrapping up their 12th back-to-back of the year against the Hornets on Tuesday night. While they’ve won both games of a back-to-back only once this year (February 14-15 against Boston and Houston), Washington has played well overall in the second game of back-to-backs. The Wizards are 5-6 in those games, including a 131-122 win over the Jazz last week. The challenge will be steeper this time around, however, as the Wizards battle through a series of injuries up and down the roster. Already without Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury), Ish Smith (right quadriceps strain) and Davis Bertans (right calf strain), Washington saw newly acquired center Daniel Gafford go down with an ankle injury on Monday night against the Pacers. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said postgame that the team did not yet know the extent of the injury, but that “it didn’t look good.” Beal and Neto were each ruled out pregame. With a shortened rotation, Washington will again lean on Westbrook, whose historic performance on Monday propelled Washington to a win, and Rui Hachimura.
Hutchison proving his worth early on
Overshadowed by Westbrook’s record-breaking performance was a strong debut from newly acquired forward Chandler Hutchison. Brought in alongside Gafford just before last week’s trade deadline, Hutchison did not play on Saturday against Detroit, but made an immediate impact in his first on-court action Monday night. In 25 minutes off the bench, Hutchison scored 18 points on 8-11 (.727) from the field, 2-3 (.667) from three and finished with a plus-12 rating.
“We (needed) an athletic wing,” Brooks said of Hutchison postgame. “We needed a wise cutter. (Westbrook and Beal) take a lot of attention…They have a lot of eyeballs on them and when you have your man looking at the ball, there’s a time and place to cut. What (Hutchison) did tonight, we haven’t had that either. You can’t teach that overnight. But he brings that.”
While it was his efficient shooting night that popped against the Pacers, Hutchison was praised by Brooks and Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard mostly for his defensive ability after the acquisition. Adding Hutchison to the mix gives the Wizards another versatile, two-way piece that will help the roster adapt down the stretch against different opponents and work through challenges like the injury issues they face now. That defensive versatility will come in handy against a Hornets rotation with numerous threats from the guard and wing positions.
Hornets provide key opportunity in Wizards’ playoff chase
Coming into Tuesday’s game, Charlotte leads the logjam in the middle of the Eastern Conference, ranking fourth with a 23-22 record. Behind the Sixers, Nets and Bucks, just two games separate the fourth-place Hornets from the ninth-place Pacers – and with the Wizards intent on working back into the postseason picture, any game against a higher-ranked East opponent is vital.
The Hornets are led by Terry Rozier, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 24.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists, leading Charlotte to a 3-1 record. Rozier is one of six Hornets averaging over 10.0 points per game in March, including Gordon Hayward (15.1). In Washington’s earlier matchup with Charlotte this season, Rozier and Hayward combined for 51 points on 17-30 (.566) shooting, leading the Hornets to a 22-point win.