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Wizards hit halfway point of road trip in Sacramento
Two games are down in the Wizards’ 5-game road trip, making Friday night’s matchup with the Kings the halfway point of a marathon out West. 1-1 so far on the swing, Washington will want to keep its multi-season winning streak against Sacramento (2-3) going to build back momentum following a loss at Golden State on Wednesday. The Kings figure to have much of their young core in place for the future, and they’ve been a high-scoring team early that will test Washington’s defense.
Golden 1 Center | 10:00 p.m. | NBC Sports Washington/NBATV | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – John Wall, G – Bradley Beal, F – Otto Porter Jr., F – Markieff Morris, C – Ian Mahinmi
Kings: G – De’Aaron Fox, G – Buddy Hield, F – Justin Jackson, F – Nemanja Bjelica, C – Willie Cauley-Stein
Wizards: Dwight Howard (Gluteal Soreness – Out), Ian Mahinmi (Back Spasms – Questionable)
Kings: Bogdan Bogdanovic (Left Knee Recovery – Out), Kosta Koufos (Right Hamstring Strain – Out)
Keep the Streak
The Wizards have had the Kings’ number of late, winning the last four meetings between the two teams. Winning on long West Coast trips is never easy regardless of the opponent, and Washington will certainly have its work cut out for it Friday. Like many young teams, Sacramento is giving up a ton of points on average (122.0), but is also a top-10 offensive team in terms of points early in the season. The Kings have the ability to play inside out, and while they don’t shoot many 3-pointers, they’ve hit 40 percent from deep so far on the year. That number will almost certainly fall back to earth, but it’s something the Wizards will need to be mindful of.
The Big Situation
Ian Mahinmi remains questionable after dealing with back spasms in Portland. If he’s unable to go, Washington will have to rely heavily on Markieff Morris, Jeff Green and Jason Smith to guard a Kings team that can play fairly big with the likes of Willie Cauley-Stein (7’0”), Marvin Bagley III (6’11”) and Nemanja Bjelica (6’10”). Offensively, Morris and Green’s ability to be a threat beyond the 3-point arc could serve as an advantage in opening up some space for John Wall and co. to attack.
With multiple losing seasons comes multiple lottery picks, and Sacramento added another promising one to the mix this offseason in Marvin Bagley III. The rookie is scoring 14.2 points per game, but has also been a force defensively with over a block per contest. He’ll often be paired with another great athlete in Willie Cauley-Stein down low. In the back court, De’Aaron Fox is making strides early in his sophomore season, leading the team with just over 17 points per game.
A player that John Wall says reminds him of himself, Fox brings breakneck speed and explosive athleticism to the floor that makes him hard to stop in transition. As he continues to develop as a point guard and draws more attention from defenses, he’ll only make players like Buddy Hield (16.2 points per game and Sacramento’s best 3-point threat) more dangerous.
Another second-year King, Justin Jackson, figures to start Friday. His numbers don’t jump off the page offensively, but he plays a critical role in a Sacramento defense that struggles as a unit. Jackson’s defended field goal percentage is a team-best 33.3%. He and another second-year player, Frank Mason, are the only two Kings with a DFG% below 36%.
Defense is a critical pillar to the fast-paced style the Wizards intend to play, and so far they’ve created chances with turnovers. Washington leads the NBA in points off of turnovers (22.5), while committing just 11.8 miscues of their own per game (third in NBA). The Wizards are third in the NBA in fast-break points, averaging over 23 per game. Washington and Sacramento rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in pace so far in 2018-19, making Friday all about which team can better execute similar styles of play and force mistakes defensively.