Preview: Wizards return to action Sunday against Spurs
In their first game since January 11, the Wizards will take on the Spurs on Sunday at 8:00 P.M. in San Antonio. Washington’s last six games were postponed in accordance with the NBA’s health and safety protocols. This is the first of three straight road games for the Wizards.
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks announced pregame that Russell Westbrook, listed as questionable with left quadriceps soreness, will start.
AT&T Center | 8:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, F – Jerome Robinson, F – Isaac Bonga, C – Robin Lopez
Spurs: G – Dejounte Murray, G – Lonnie Walker IV, F – DeMar DeRozan, F – Keldon Johnson, C – LaMarcus Aldridge
Wizards: Deni Avdija (health and safety protocols – out), Davis Bertans (health and safety protocols – out), Troy Brown Jr. (health and safety protocols – out), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Rui Hachimura (health and safety protocols – out), Raul Neto (left groin tightness – out), Ish Smith (health and safety protocols – out), Moe Wagner (health and safety protocols – out), Russell Westbrook (left quadriceps soreness – available)
Spurs: Drew Eubanks (health and safety protocols – out), Dejounte Murray (left ankle sprain – available), Quinndary (left knee surgery – out), Derrick White (left second toe fracture – out)
Wizards look to make the most of a shorthanded lineup
While the Wizards are set to make their return to the court, they will hardly resemble the team that beat Phoenix nearly two weeks ago. Due to health and safety protocols, Washington will be without Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith and Moe Wagner. With Thomas Bryant out for the season and Raul Neto unavailable due to a going injury, the Wizards will rely on a group that hasn’t seen much action this season.
Available for Washington will be Bradley Beal, Isaac Bonga, Robin Lopez, Anthony Gill, Garrison Mathews, Jerome Robinson, Russell Westbrook and Cassius Winston – as well as a pair of frontcourt additions announced on Saturday: Alex Len and Jordan Bell. The shortage of players will pose a significant challenge for the team with regard to rotations and workload, but also provide a great opportunity for some lesser-utilized players to seize the moment.
“I know one thing – we’re going to give great effort,” Brooks said. “We haven’t played in two weeks. That’s a long time. That’s a very long time. But there are no excuses. We’re excited to play. We’re going to go out there and give great effort, give ourselves a chance to compete and I think it’s going to come down to – there’s going to be some rust. There are going to be some spots during the game where we might be a little tired. I might have to call a few quicker timeouts…I hope we can just start playing where we left off. We were playing decent basketball.”
Westbrook set to return
The one silver lining of the Wizards’ health and safety protocol-related hiatus was the time it gave Westbrook time to rehab an injury that was expected to sideline him for at least a week’s worth of games. The team announced on January 11 that the former MVP suffered an aggravation of a quadriceps injury that occurred in the preseason. Nearly two weeks later, Westbrook will make his return Sunday against the Spurs, having missed just two games with the injury. He participated in a limited capacity during the team’s recent practice sessions.
“Every day, he was progressing in the right direction,” Brooks said. “You just never know util the next morning how you feel. He felt great. We wouldn’t put him out there if he didn’t feel great. His minutes are not going to be the normal 34 or 35, they’re probably going to be somewhere in the mid-20 range. It’s just good having him. He’s a big-time player.”
Scouting the Spurs
The Spurs enter Sunday night’s matchup having lost two straight and three of their last five games and sit at 8-8 on the season. On Friday night against the Mavericks, the Spurs put on one of their best shooting nights of the year, but were unable to slow down Dallas’s potent offense, losing 122-117. Dejounte Murray, who ranks second on the team in both points and assists and is one of the best defensive guards in the league, went down early in the first quarter with a left ankle injury, but will start Sunday night against the Wizards. In addition to Murray, the Wizards will also look to slow down DeMar DeRozan, who leads the team in minutes (34.3), points (20.9) and assists (6.7). DeRozan played a game-high 40 minutes in San Antonio’s loss to the Dallas, scoring a team-high 29 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists. In the frontcourt, LaMarcus Aldridge will command most of the Wizards’ defensive attention. Coming off a 26-point, nine-rebound game against the Mavericks, Aldridge has had his way with the Wizards in recent matchups. In his last four games against Washington, the versatile big is averaging 23.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. The Spurs are 3-1 in those games.