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Preview: Wizards head to Dallas for second night of back-to-back
The Wizards take on the Mavericks on Saturday night at 9:00 P.M. ET at the American Airlines Center in the second game of a road back-to-back. Washington is coming off a 122-93 win Friday night in Cleveland while Dallas has won five of its last six games, most recently a 10-point win in Detroit. Entering play on Saturday, the Wizards are three games ahead of the Bulls and Raptors for the 10th seed in the East. They only trail the Hornets by 1.5 games for 8th seed and are half of a game behind the Pacers for 9th.
American Airlines Center| 9:00 P.M. | NBCSW PLUS | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Raul Neto, G – Bradley Beal, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Alex Len
Mavericks: G – Luka Doncic, G – Josh Richardson, G – Tim Hardaway Jr., F – Maxi Kleber, C – Dwight Powell
Wizards: Deni Avdija (right ankle fracture – out), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out)
Mavericks: Maxi Kleber (right lower leg soreness – probable), Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness – out), J.J. Redick (right heel - out), Tyrell Terry (personal reasons – out)
Wizards begin May after exceptional April
The Wizards finished April with a 12-5 record, winners of 10 of their final 11 games in the month. In what was one of the franchise’s best months in recent team history, Washington will look to carry over that success into May. Since April 7, the Wizards are 12-2, the best record in the NBA during that stretch. Washington ranks seventh in offensive rating (115.0), third in defensive rating (107.7), and fourth in net rating (7.3). The team’s play has turned heads around the league, but the Wizards have been taking their success one game at a time.
The team was led by its star backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. Westbrook, who finished April with an NBA record 14 triple-doubles in a month, averaged 21.1 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 12.0 assists per game in 17 games. His running mate Beal also posted 30.3 points per game on 48.4% shooting, 38.9% from 3-point, and 89.5% from the free throw line.
All 14 healthy players stepping up
Washington has been unquestionably anchored by its All-Star guards, but almost every single player on the roster has stepped up and had a big night during this winning stretch. Raul Neto, who has become a fixture in the starting lineup since Rui Hachimura (since returned) and Deni Avdija (out for season) got hurt, is averaging a career-high in almost all statistical categories. Anthony Gill, who had played limited minutes all season, has delivered multiple double-digit point performances in the past week. The three-center rotation of Alex Len, Daniel Gafford, and Robin Lopez has come up big time and time again. The list goes on and on, and the Wizards’ ability to play together has elevated the team’s ceiling and postseason trajectory.
“We’ve had guys step up any given game,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said after Friday’s win. “Like tonight it was AG [Anthony Gill] who stepped up and gave us good minutes. We’re healthy – we have a good team. We’ve had a lot of stuff go on, and I think the biggest thing is we just stayed with it.”
“It’s amazing, man,” Westbrook said postgame on Friday. “It’s so much fun for me to see guys do well…As a team, collectively, playing together, cheering the next person on, next person on, next man up - it’s been unbelievable, especially the right time of year. I’m just happy guys put in the work and kind of be able to see it come to life.”
Doncic returns for rolling Mavericks
The Mavericks’ recent stretch of five wins in six games has come mostly on the back of Luka Doncic, who is averaging 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 9.2 assists in his last five games. In that time, Dallas earned a pair of wins over the defending champion Lakers, including one by 15 points, and a 30-point win over Golden State in which Doncic scored 39 points on 15-23 (.652) shooting and finished with a plus-29 rating. The third-year star, however, missed the team’s most recent outing, a 115-105 win over Pistons. In his absence, Tim Hardaway Jr. stepped up, scoring a career-high 42 points on 6-10 (.600) from deep and 10-10 (1.000) from the free throw line. Doncic is expected to return on Saturday night, pitting the Wizards against one of the best offensive talents in the league. This year, Dallas ranks top-10 in the NBA in net rating (2.2) and offensive rating (114.0).