Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
Wizards return for primetime showdown with Cavs
Washington takes on the new-look Cavs in its first game back from the All-Star break in Cleveland.
Quicken Loans Arena | 8 p.m. | TNT | 1500 AM
Wizards (33-24): G - Satoransky, G - Beal, F - Porter Jr., F - Morris, C - Gortat
Cavaliers (34-22): G - Hill, G – Smith, F - Osman, F - James, C - Thompson
Wizards: John Wall (Knee - Out), Tim Frazier (Nose - TBD)
Cavaliers: Kevin Love (Hand - Out)
Washington hits the road for the first half of a road/home back-to-back that will conclude Friday night when it hosts the Hornets. First, they’re in Cleveland tonight to take on a re-vamped Cavs team that looked dangerous heading into the All-Star break. The Wizards are still without John Wall, but they headed into the break with wins in seven of their last nine games on the shoulders of great team basketball and first-time All-Star Bradley Beal. The Cavs took a four-game winning streak into All-Star weekend, scoring 120 points or more in each victory.
Now, the Wizards are hoping the third time will be the charm after dropping a pair to the Cavs in D.C. already this season. Tonight marks the beginning of a remarkably tough final stretch of the regular season, as 18 of the Wizards’ final 25 games will come against teams currently in playoff position. For what it’s worth, dating back to last season, the road team has won the past five meetings between Washington and Cleveland.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Especially from 3-point range. It’s hard to stop the Cavs’ multi-headed attack from beyond the arc, but activity on the defensive end will have to start with making things difficult from deep. Cleveland takes the third-most 3-pointers per game and makes the second-most so far on the season. The need to contest the 3-point shot only increases with the Cavs’ flurry of deadline deals that netted them George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. The first three of those four are additional sharpshooters that add to a group that already boasts J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver. Of course, it all comes together for the Cavs when you add LeBron James’ 26.5 points, 8.9 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game leading the charge.
Sharing is caring
While slowing down Cleveland is a challenge, the Cavs have had plenty of trouble of their own slowing down potent offenses. On the year, Cleveland has allowed nearly as many points as its scored (110.2-110.0) on average. For the Wizards, the formula to their recent success offensively has been all about ball movement. In their past nine games, Washington has assisted on 71.5 percent of its made field goals to the tune of just over 30 assists per game, two marks that are atop the NBA over that period. That’s led to five players averaging double-figure scoring totals, led by Bradley Beal (21.8 points per game) and Otto Porter (19.1 points) over the nine-game span. It’s worth noting that three more players are averaging 7.8 points or more per game.
Up next, the Wizards will head home to host the Hornets on Friday night at Capital One Arena. (7:00 p.m.)