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Wizards set for final road game of the season in New York
Bradley Beal said after Friday night’s loss to San Antonio in Washington that while the Wizards are out of playoff contention, they’re still focused on finishing the season strong and building any momentum they can for next season. And while fighting for a postseason spot is out of the picture, there’s nothing like the lights of Madison Square Garden to add some motivation to a late-season game. Washington will take on the struggling Knicks on Sunday night in New York, where the home team has lost eight of its last nine contests and has the NBA’s worst record by four games.
Madison Square Garden | 7:30 P.M. ET | NBC Sports Washington | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Tomas Satoransky, G – Bradley Beal, F – Troy Brown Jr., F – Bobby Portis, C – Thomas Bryant
Knicks: G – Emmanuel Mudiay, G – Damyean Dotson, F – Mario Hezonja, F –Kevin Knox, C – Mitchell Robinson
Wizards: Dwight Howard (L4-L5 lumbar microdiscectomy procedure – out), John Wall (left achilles tendon tear – out), Trevor Ariza (left groin strain – out), Jabari Parker (left knee sprain – questionable), Jordan McRae (sore left Achilles – questionable)
Knicks: Noah Vonleh (right ankle sprain – out), Allonzo Trier (left calf strain – out), Frank Ntilikina (groin soreness – out), Kadeem Allen (concussion – out), Emmanuel Mudiay (shoulder soreness – doubtful), Dennis Smith Jr. (lower back soreness – questionable), Isaiah Hicks (left hip soreness – questionable)
All about growth
Thomas Bryant played in 15 games for the Lakers in his rookie season last year after being drafted 42nd overall in 2017. This season, he’s taken the rare opportunity to jump into a regular starting role to the tune of 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds again. Moreover, he’s been an adrenaline shot for Washington on a nightly basis. His energy is contagious, and he’s made a massive leap from a raw prospect to a bonafide NBA starter in less than a calendar year.
Troy Brown Jr. was the Wizards’ first-round pick in last year’s draft, and he’s now the center of attention for Washington as it turns its attention to growing towards the offseason. He’s still only 19 years old as the end of his first NBA season nears, but he’s shown flashes of what made him a top-15 pick in the 2018 draft. His career-high of 24 points came in a win in Denver, and he’s started to settle into the team with the help of Bradley Beal, Jeff Green, and others.
The performance of both Brown and Bryant in the final two games will be a major area of focus for the Wizards, as will the play of two-way player Devin Robinson. Robinson recently returned from injury and the majority of the season in the G-League, where he scored nearly 20 points per game this season. He made his return to the Wizards on Friday, scoring four points in four minutes.
Washington’s ‘Iron Man’
Two-time All-Star Bradley Beal is planning on playing all 82 games for a second straight season, and he’s provided invaluable leadership for the Wizards this season. It’s been particularly important after John Wall’s injury, and Beal has taken the role seriously through the ups and downs of the campaign. He’s also averaging 25.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game on the season and is close to becoming the only player in franchise history to post such averages in a full season. His 65 games of 20+ points this season rank first in the East and are tied for second in the NBA, and he’s averaging 29.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.8 assists in road games following the All-Star break.
Getting to know the Knicks
With the NBA’s worst record, New York and first-year head coach David Fizdale are also in evaluation mode. Unfortunately, the Knicks are dealing with a lot of injuries that will keep many of their prospects out on Sunday. The biggest name to keep an eye on is Kevin Knox, who’s averaging just under 13 points in his rookie season after being drafted ninth overall in last year’s draft. Dennis Smith Jr. – acquired from Dallas at the deadline in the Kristaps Porzingis trade – hasn’t played since March 20 but is officially listed as questionable. 2017 second-round pick Mitchell Robinson has a unique combination of size (7’1”) and athleticism that can make him hard to handle in the paint.