Preview: Wizards take on Suns Saturday in second game of back-to-back
The Wizards are back at it one night after one of their most exciting wins of the season, taking on the Suns at 10:00 P.M. ET on Saturday night in Phoenix. Washington is coming off a comeback win over the Warriors on Friday while Phoenix looks to bounce back from a loss to the Clippers.
After missing the last six games with a right ankle sprain, Daniel Gafford is set to return for the Wizards on Saturday. Bradley Beal (mid back tightness) will not play and Davis Bertans, who recently returned from a right calf strain, will rest on Saturday with Washington playing on back-to-back nights.
PHX Arena | 10:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Raul Neto, F – Deni Avdija, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Alex Len
Suns: G – Chris Paul, G – Devin Booker, F – Mikal Bridges, F – Jae Crowder, C – Deandre Ayton
Wizards: Bradley Beal (mid back tightness – out), Davis Bertans (rest – out), Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Daniel Gafford (right ankle sprain – available)
Suns: Abdel Nader (right knee soreness – out)
Beal battling through hip and back injuries
The Wizards’ thrilling win over the Warriors on the front end of their Friday-Saturday back-to-back was made possible by one of Bradley Beal’s most memorable performances of the season. Beal, playing in his second game back after a five-game absence due to a right hip contusion, battled back tightness throughout the game. He exited with 2:48 left in the third quarter and, at one point, went back to the locker room for further evaluation.
“I didn’t think he was coming back,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said postgame.
But Beal’s night wasn’t over. With Washington down by one, he checked back in with 4:27 left and grabbed control of the game. He scored 10 points in the final 3:45 of the game and six in the final six seconds, including the game-winning four-point play.
Beal has shown a propensity to play through discomfort if it means giving his team a chance to win. Brooks said that Beal’s “questionable” status during his five-game absence was a result of Beal wanting to test his hip and see if he could tolerate the pain and play through the pain. As he now battles through hip and back discomfort, Beal’s status will continue to be monitored on a game-by-game basis.
“Like I’ve said many times, we’ve got a really good backcourt,” Brooks said on Friday. “They’re skilled, they’re dynamic, they’re unique. But the thing I really love about them is their both tough as nails. Brad wants to play.”
Lopez excelling with Gafford set to return
Robin Lopez enters Saturday night’s game against the Suns team that drafted him in 2008 having scored 16-plus points in five of his last six games, coming off the bench in each. Friday night against the Warriors, Lopez finished with a season-high 20 points, topping his previous high of 19 set the game before in a win over the Magic. Lopez’s standout play has been vital for the Wizards as Daniel Gafford, who was acquired by the team at the March 25 trade deadline, missed the last six games with a right ankle sprain. However, the team announced on Saturday afternoon that Gafford would make his return to the lineup against the Suns.
“He had a great workout, three-on-three, (Thursday),” Brooks said prior to the Wizards’ win over the Warriors. “You’re always a little worried about the next day and he felt great (Friday).”
Scouting the Suns
Prior to a loss to the Clippers on Thursday night, the Suns had won 10 of their last 11 games dating back to mid-March, including wins over the Lakers, Heat and Jazz. At 36-15 on the season, Phoenix ranks second in the Western Conference, trailing only Utah. During that 11-game stretch, Devin Booker averaged a team-high 28.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Deandre Ayton has averaged a double-double (16.5 points and 10.0 rebounds) and Chris Paul has nearly done the same (17.5 points and 9.2 assists).
The Wizards, playing without Russell Westbrook, won the teams’ only prior matchup this season by 21 points. While Booker scored a team-high 33 points, Washington managed to hold the Phoenix offense in check. Beal scored 34 points, 17 of which came in the third quarter, to lead the Wizards to a win.