Preview: Wizards return to Washington, host Pelicans Friday night

The Wizards are back in D.C. after a six-game road trip, hosting the Pelicans at 7:00 P.M. on Friday night in their first game at Capital One Arena since April 3. Washington has won four of its last five games, most recently a 12-point win in Sacramento on Wednesday night. New Orleans had won three straight before falling to the Knicks on Wednesday.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks announced pregame that Davis Bertans (personal reasons) will not be available.

GAME INFO

Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM

PROBABLE STARTERS

Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, F – Deni Avdija, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Alex Len

Pelicans: G – Eric Bledsoe, G – Lonzo Ball, F – Brandon Ingram, F – Zion Williamson, C – Steven Adams

INJURY REPORT

Wizards: Davis Bertans (personal reasons – out), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out)

Pelicans: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (left high ankle sprain – out), Lonzo Ball (left hip flexor soreness – available), Josh Hart (right thumb surgery – out)

STORYLINES

Wizards return to Washington with momentum

Coming off four wins in their last five games, the Wizards are playing their best basketball since a stretch of seven wins in eight games in mid-to-late February, which also revolved around a successful West Coast road trip. Washington was rolling before losing momentum coming out of the All-Star break and taking on another rush of injuries to key members of the rotation. Back at full strength, the Wizards are surging and making up ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With Washington’s run and Chicago losing four straight and 10 of their last 13, the Wizards are just one game out of the decisive 10th spot in the East. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said after the Wizards’ win over the Kings on Wednesday that he believed everything the team has gone through this season sets them up for success in the final month of the regular season.

“I love it,” Brooks said. “It’s been a challenge, not only physically, with what the players have been through, but mentally. It’s been challenging to get in a rhythm and then something happens. You get in another rhythm and then there’s another setback. That’s life. You’ve got to get back up and keep charging forward and keep moving forward and not complain about what happened…If you keep that attitude in the right place, it always works out…I like our toughness. All the adversity that we’ve gone through, it’s going to help us down the stretch.”

Williamson running the show in second season with Pelicans

Zion Williamson leads a Pelicans team that, like the Wizards, is just outside qualifying position for the NBA postseason with one month left to play in the regular season. New Orleans trails San Antonio by two games for the 10th and final spot in the league’s newly implemented play-in tournament.

Williamson has been dominant in his second year in the NBA and has improved noticeably as the season has progressed. He’s showed an ability to get to the rim at will, attempting 95.0% of his field goals within 10 feet of the basket – and is converting on 63.4% of those shots. In the last 10 games he’s played, Williamson is averaging 31.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, shooting 61.3% from the field and getting to the free throw line over 10 times per game. In that same span, he’s recorded six games with at least 30 points and scored at least 25 in all but one. What’s most notable, however, is how Williamson is generating his production. At 6’7” and 284 pounds, the second-year pro is listed as a power forward, but has moved more and more into a ball-handling role as the season moves along. Over the last four months, his usage rate has increased every month, from 26.6 in January to 31.9 in six games in April. In that same time, his assist percentage has climbed from 13.9 to 29.8.

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