Preview: Wizards host Suns Monday with Beal set to return
In the second of three consecutive home games, the Wizards host the Suns on Monday at 7:00 P.M. at Capital One Arena. Washington is coming off a loss to the Heat on Saturday night in which they played without Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook – and saw starting center Thomas Bryant go down with a partially torn ACL that will cause him to miss the rest of the season. The Suns, tied for first in the Western Conference, are coming off an eight-point win in Indiana on Saturday.
Bradley Beal (health and safety protocols) will return after missing one game. Russell Westbrook (left quadriceps soreness) is out and is expected to miss the next week of play, the team announced Sunday.
Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Raul Neto, G – Bradley Beal, F – Deni Avdija, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Robin Lopez
Suns: G – Chris Paul, G – Devin Booker, F – Mikal Bridges, F – Jae Crowder, C – Deandre Ayton
Wizards: Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Russell Westbrook (left quadriceps soreness – out)
Suns: Cameron Payne (right ankle sprain – doubtful), Jalen Smith (health and safety protocols – out)
Opportunity arises with key players missing
With Beal, Westbrook and Bryant out of the lineup on Saturday night, a number of Wizards saw opportunities they would not have seen otherwise. Deni Avdija, Garrison Mathews, Jerome Robinson and Moe Wagner all stepped into and delivered in larger-than-expected roles.
“Our young players, our players that haven’t had a lot of experience…those guys got a little bit better today,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said following the loss to the Heat. “They competed. (Miami) is a championship level team that we played against – they’ve got their entire squad and they’re ready to make another run. I thought our guys competed…We battled back and made it an interesting game in the end.”
While Beal is set to return to action Monday and Westbrook out a week, Bryant is done for the season. The Wizards announced on Sunday that Bryant suffered a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Saturday against the Heat.
The Wizards now face some unexpected adversity and those that stepped up on Saturday night will have more opportunity to do so Monday against Phoenix and in the games following.
Avdija looks to build on career-best game
Deni Avdija, the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, has started all 10 games for the Wizards this season. In some games, he’s shown flashes of passing and scoring ability well beyond his age and, in others, struggled to make an impact on the game. Such is the case for most NBA rookies. Success is less about excelling every single night and more about enduring the ups and downs of a season while continuing to incrementally improve. Avdija has done just that. After combining for just four points in his previous three games, the rookie answered with the best game of his career – a 20-point, five-rebound, five-assist performance against the Heat on Saturday. He set career highs in points, field goals, 3-pointers and assists.
“He had a tough stretch,” Brooks said of Avdija after the Miami game. “That’s part of growing up. I mean, the guy just turned 20 last week. It’s the growing pains. I have to be patient. I have to help him through it. He has to understand that he’s going to go through it. But you’ve got to enjoy the process of going through it. It’s tough, trust me. I’ve been there before….You’ve just got to come back a little bit better every day and understand that you’re good enough to be in this league. You’re going to have brighter days ahead. That’s what he’s been doing. He hasn’t played well in the last two or three games, but he came back better tonight. Build on it. He has another opportunity Monday against Phoenix.”
Slowing down the Suns
While much of the league struggles to find any semblance of consistency in the opening weeks of the season, the Suns are one of the few teams to have found their stride from the jump. Phoenix started the season 5-1, including wins over the Mavericks, Jazz and Nuggets – and are coming off an eight-point win Saturday night in Indiana. 10-time All-Star Chris Paul, acquired in the offseason, leads the team with 8.5 assists per game while Devin Booker leads the Suns with 22.0 points per game. The wild card for Phoenix this season has been Mikal Bridges. The third-year wing man is shooting 46.7% from 3-point range and is coming off a career-high 34 points on Saturday night against Indiana. Bridges finished 12-18 (.667) from the field and 6-8 (.750) from 3-point range.