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Wizards begin road stretch Tuesday against Hornets
The Wizards (7-15) are in Charlotte Tuesday night, taking on the Hornets (9-16) at 7:00 P.M. Washington is looking to bounce back from a high-scoring loss to the Clippers Sunday night while Charlotte is coming off a home loss to the Hawks. Both teams enter the game on a bit of a cold streak, each losing four of their last five games.
Spectrum Center | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Ish Smith, G – Bradley Beal, F – Isaac Bonga, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Moritz Wagner
Hornets: G – Terry Rozier, G – Devonte’ Graham, F – Miles Bridges, F – P.J. Washington, C – Bismack Biyombo
Wizards: Thomas Bryant (right foot stress reaction – out), Jordan McRae (right ring finger surgery – out) C.J. Miles (left wrist surgery – out), Isaiah Thomas (left calf strain – out), John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out)
Hornets: P.J. Washington (right ankle sprain – probable), Marvin Williams (right knee soreness – doubtful)
Ish Smith excelling with higher workload
In the wake of injuries to Isaiah Thomas and Jordan McRae, Ish Smith has seen a substantial uptick in action, including starts in each of the Wizards’ last three games. Over those three games, Smith is averaging 16.0 points and 6.7 assists in 32.5 minutes per game. In his previous 19 games this season, he averaged 8.0 points and 3.9 assists in 23.4 minutes per game. In Washington’s back-to-back last week against Philadelphia and Miami, Smith tallied a season-high eight assists in each game and turned the ball over just once. Thomas and McRae will not play Tuesday and possibly beyond, so Smith will see plenty of opportunity to keep up his improved play.
Slowing down Charlotte’s young backcourt duo
Guards Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier lead the way for the Hornets, ranking first and second on the team in minutes, points, shots and assists per game. Graham, who averages 18.8 points per game, has established himself as one of the league’s most intriguing young scorers. He’s currently making 3.6 threes per game, fifth-best in the league. Last Wednesday, Graham played one of his best games of the season, scoring 33 points – 30 of which came from beyond the arc – to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds. Rozier, prior to a cold shooting night Sunday against the Hawks, averaged 24.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in his previous two games against the Warriors and Nets. Graham and Rozier each scored 19 points in Charlotte’s meeting with the Wizards on November 22.
Graham and Rozier’s ability to take care of the ball on Tuesday night will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. Both guards average around three turnovers per game, but have seen those numbers drop in their last five outings. Charlotte is averaging nearly five assists less per game in their wins (12.9) than in their losses (17.3). Look for the Wizards defense, which is averaging over 16 forced turnovers per game in its last 10 games, to get aggressive with the young backcourt and try to force them into some mistakes.
The games ahead…
After a grueling stretch of 11 games in 19 nights, most against some of the best teams in the league, the Wizards finally get some schedule relief. Washington plays just two games over the next seven nights and 10 games over the next 23 nights. Of those 10 games, just two will come against teams with a winning record – a road back-to-back against Toronto and Philadelphia on December 20-21. The Wizards will take on the Hornets, Grizzlies, Bulls and have two matchups with both the Knicks and Pistons. The upcoming schedule comes at a good time for the Wizards, who are working to get healthy in the wake of a run of injuries to a number of key rotation players.