Preview: Wizards look to end slide Wednesday in Orlando
The Wizards continue their six-game road trip on Wednesday night, taking on the Magic at 7:00 P.M. at the Amway Center. Washington has lost 12 of 15 games to start the second half and is coming off a buzzer-beating loss to the Raptors. Orlando is looking to bounce back from a 10-point loss in Denver on Sunday night.
The team announced pregame that Bradley Beal (right hip contusion), Rui Hachimura (right shoulder tightness) and Robin Lopez (right quadriceps tightness) would all be active. Beal has missed the last five games and Hachimura the last two.
Amway Center | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Russell Westbrook, F – Deni Avdija, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Alex Len
Magic: G – Michael Carter-Williams, G –Dwayne Bacon, F – James Ennis III, F – Chuma Okeke, C – Wendell Carter Jr.
Wizards: Bradley Beal (right hip contusion – available), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Daniel Gafford (right ankle sprain – out), Rui Hachimura (right shoulder tightness – available), Robin Lopez (right quadriceps tightness – available)
Magic: Cole Anthony (right non-displaced rib fracture – available), Khem Birch (non-COVID illness – available), Michael Carter-Williams (non-COVID illness – available), Markelle Fultz (left knee; torn ACL – out), Gary Harris (left adductor strain – out), Jonathan Isaac (left knee injury recovery – out), Karim Mane (sore right hamstring – out), Otto Porter Jr. (left foot pain – out)
Avdija producing with aggressive mindset
Since moving back into the starting lineup six games ago, Deni Avdija has played some of his most productive basketball of the season. With Bradley Beal missing the last five games and Rui Hachimura missing the last two, Avdija is one of a handful of Wizards players taking on a more significant workload. In the last five games, he’s shooting 36.2% from the field on 9.4 shots per game, up from his 5.4 field goal attempts average in his previous 40 games this season. But while his shooting and scoring numbers may not jump off the box score, he’s finding other ways to impact the game. Avdija has now grabbed at least eight rebounds in five consecutive games, including a pair of double-doubles in the last three games.
“I’ve been trying to be more aggressive,” Avdija said after Monday’s game against Toronto. “I feel like I’m a good rebounder. I can rebound the ball and I can help my teammates sometimes when they need me…That’s what I do. It’s all a part of being more aggressive and wanting to help the team as much as I can.”
Wizards remain in reach of postseason in tight East race
While the Wizards have done themselves no favors in the standings in recent weeks, their postseason aspirations are very much in play in a tightly packed Eastern Conference. At 17-32 on the season, Washington ranks 13th in the East, but just 3.5 games out of the 10-seed that would put the team in a qualifying position for the conference’s play-in series. The teams just ahead of the Wizards in the standings – the Cavaliers (12th), Raptors (11th) and Bulls (10th) are 8-22 (.266) in their last 30 games combined. With the looming returns of Beal, Hachimura and Daniel Gafford, as well as a favorable schedule down the stretch of the season, Washington will have its opportunities. But no matter how dense the standings may be, the Wizards know it’s on them to turn things around.
“We’ve got to figure it out,” Russell Westbrook said earlier this week. “No team is going to feel sorry for us, so we’ve got to figure it out.”
The Wizards and Magic have met twice this season, a back-to-back in D.C. in the opening week of the season. Washington lost both games by 10 and seven points, respectively. The Magic wins came on the backs of All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and young point guard Markelle Fultz. Vucevic averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Fultz averaged 23.5 points on 52.9% shooting. The Orlando rotation looks much different now than it did when the teams met in the first week of the season. Fultz is out for the season with torn ACL in his left knee. Vucevic, in addition to fellow starters Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, were traded away at the deadline in late March. Between the four of them, Fultz, Gordon, Fournier and Vucevic combined to average 71.7 points per game in Orlando this season. Terrence Ross, who averages 16.0 points per game, leads the current roster in scoring, but plays almost exclusively in a sixth man role. Ross is coming off a 19-point performance in 31 minutes against the Nuggets.