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Short-handed Wizards face Knicks Monday night
After losses on consecutive nights in Toronto and Philadelphia, the Wizards (8-20) look to snap their skid Monday night against the Knicks (7-23) at 7:00 P.M. at Madison Square Garden. The Wizards enter Monday’s matchup having lost three consecutive games and seven of their last eight while the Knicks have lost their last two and 13 of their last 16. While the teams enter the matchup nearby in the Eastern Conference standings, the series as of late has been notably one-sided. Dating back to November of 2013, the Wizards have won 18 of their last 21 games against the Knicks.
Madison Square Garden | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Ish Smith, G – Bradley Beal, F – Troy Brown Jr., F – Isaac Bonga, C – Ian Mahinmi
Knicks: G – Elfrid Payton, G – RJ Barrett, F – Marcus Morris Sr., F – Julius Randle, C – Taj Gibson
Wizards: Davis Bertans (right quad strain – out), Thomas Bryant (right foot stress reaction – out), Rui Hachimura (groin injury – out), Jordan McRae (right ring finger surgery – out), C.J. Miles (left wrist surgery – out), Isaiah Thomas (league suspension – out), Moritz Wagner (left ankle sprain – out), John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out)
Knicks: Reggie Bullock (neck, cervical disc herniation – out), Wayne Ellington (left Achilles soreness – out)
Wizards bench gets thinner with Bertans, Thomas unavailable vs. New York
The Wizards shorthandedness will reach a new level Monday night in New York. Already missing Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, Jordan McRae, C.J. Miles, Moritz Wagner and John Wall, Washington will now be without starters Davis Bertans and Isaiah Thomas. Saturday night against Philadelphia, Bertans suffered a right quad injury that will keep him out against the Knicks, the first game that he will miss all season. Bertans, averaging career-best numbers across the board this season, including 30.0 minutes per game, has been a key cog in the Wizards offense nearly every night. In the month of December, Bertans is averaging 19.4 points per game and is second in the league with 4.5 threes per game, shooting 42.6 from deep.
On Monday, Isaiah Thomas will serve the first game of a two-game suspension for entering the stands Saturday against Philadelphia. Ish Smith will likely start in his place.
The Wizards have dealt with injuries to a number of players all season. With Ian Mahinimi and Anzejs Pasecniks occupying the center position and Bertans unavailable, the Wizards will likely be forced to go even smaller at the power forward position. Isaac Bonga and Troy Brown Jr., who spend most of their time in the small forward position, will almost certainly see significant minutes at the four spot. Rookie Admiral Schofield, who is averaging 21.2 minutes per game over the five games, will likely see even more of the court against New York.
Wizards offense producing through injuries, losing streak
Despite a three-game losing streak and a .182 winning percentage in December, the Wizards’ offense has managed to keep pace with some of the league’s best. In the last 10 games, the Wizards rank top-10 in both offensive rating (112.0), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.86) and have scored over 115 points in five of those games. Much of the Wizards production through that time has come from distance. Washington has hit 14 or more 3-pointers in five of its last 10 games, including 18 against Detroit on December 16. In that stretch, the Wizards rank second-to-last in percentage of points scored in the paint (37.3). Points are to be expected Monday night as both the Wizards and Knicks rank near the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency.
Randle key to establishing New York’s offensive rhythm
Among the Knicks’ players in the best position to take advantage of the Wizards’ thin rotation is Julius Randle. In the frontcourt alone, Washington will be without Davis Bertans, Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner Monday night in New York. Randle is a bruising, aggressive forward who has shown the ability to hit from range on occasion. In the last six games, Randle has scored 20-plus points four times and is averaging 9.6 rebounds per game. In his four career games against the Wizards, Randle averages 9.9 rebounds per game, the second-highest average against any opponent.
Preventing Randle from dominating the paint will be high on the Wizards’ list of priorities. The Knicks are among the league’s worst when it comes to perimeter scoring, so if Washington is able to cut off New York’s offensive production from the inside out, it could create some much-needed margin for error for a Wizards offense missing some of its most impactful pieces.