Preview: Wizards host Pacers Friday in home opener
Capital One Arena | 7 p.m. | TV: NBCSW | Radio: 980 AM & Wizards App
The Wizards’ Home Opener is set for Friday night at 7 p.m. at Capital One Arena against the Pacers. Washington is coming off a 98-83 win over the Raptors on Wednesday night while Indiana looks to bounce back from a one-point loss to the Hornets. Bradley Beal (right hip contusion) will not play. Aaron Holiday will start in his place.
|G||Spencer Dinwiddie||Malcolm Brogdon|
|G||Aaron Holiday||Chris Duarte|
|F||Kentavious Caldwell-Pope||Justin Holiday|
|F||Kyle Kuzma||Domantas Sabonis|
|C||Daniel Gafford||Myles Turner|
Wizards: Bradley Beal (right hip contusion – out), Thomas Bryant (left knee injury recovery – out), Anthony Gill (right calf strain – questionable), Rui Hachimura (not with team – out), Cassius Winston (left hamstring strain – out)
Pacers: Torrey Craig (sore left shoulder – questionable), Justin Holiday (left ankle sprain – questionable), Jeremy Lamb (sore right wrist – questionable), Caris LeVert (sore lower back – out), Kelan Martin (left hamstring strain – out), T.J. Warren (fractured left navicular)
Balanced attack key to Wizards’ success
In Washington’s season-opening win in Toronto on Wednesday, Beal once again led the team in scoring, just as he did in 49 of the 60 regular season games in which he played last season. But this time was different. Beal scored just 23 points and was supplemented by other performances like those of Montrezl Harrell (22 points, nine rebounds), Kyle Kuzma (11 points, 15 rebounds) and Spencer Dinwiddie (13 points, six assists). Beal finished the night plus-24 in 34 minutes and said postgame that he felt fresh throughout the entire game, but took a knee to the leg late in the game that will keep him out of tonight’s matchup.
With Beal out Friday night, the Wizards will depend even more on the depth of their rotation to produce at a similar level. Rather than the gravitational force that Beal’s presence has on opposing defenses, Washington will need a better 3-point shooting performance than it got in the season opener to create space for everyone on the court. Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each shot well in the preseason and are due for bounce-back games after combining to go 3-12 (.214) in the season opener. Davis Bertans and Corey Kispert could each factor more into the gameplan in an effort to boost the distance shooting.
Scouting the Pacers
The Wizards’ matchups with the Pacers made for the some of the most exciting games of the team’s 2020-21 season, including a 133-132 overtime thriller in which Beal scored 50 points. Indiana made a coaching change this offseason, hiring longtime Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, but retained the majority of their roster. That group is again headlined by Domantas Sabonis, who averaged 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game last season and is coming off a 33-point, 15-rebound performance in the Pacers’ season opener against the Hornets. Also manning the paint is Myles Turner, one of the most prolific shot-blockers in the NBA. Turner averaged a league-high 3.4 rejections per game last season and added four on Wednesday night in Charlotte.
“We’ve got to be disciplined,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld said. “Their bigs are dynamic. They can play inside-out, they can shoot the three and they’re both extremely physical. We’ve got to be smart with our hands and our body position…Ideally we want to play as straight-up as we can. We don’t want to over-help.”
A special home opener in D.C.
Friday’s home opener will mark the first time in over a year and a half that the Wizards will host a game without capacity restrictions. Those in attendance will be required to wear a mask and will see reduced contact points at locations like concessions stands, ticket stations and security checkpoints. The organization has planned a series of activities and giveaways for all fans in attendance, including the Capital One Fan Van, the Meet at the Metro event, 10,000 rally towels and schedule mousepads, in-game entertainment, retails offers and more.
Tickets for all Wizards home games can be purchased HERE.