Wizards take on four Eastern Conference opponents this week
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Wizards enter a jam-packed week against four Eastern Conference opponents. Three of the four teams – Indiana, Philadelphia, and Boston – are currently in the playoff hunt. The Wizards, of course, currently sit at the No. 4 seed in the East, half a game behind Cleveland for the No. 3 seed.
This week’s full slate and details:
Mon. at Pacers (7:00pm, NBCSW/1500 AM)
Tues. at Sixers (8:00pm, NBCSW+, TNT/1500 AM)
Thu. vs. Celtics (8:00pm, TNT/1500 AM) - Click here for tickets
Sat. at Bulls (8:00pm, NBCSW/1500 AM)
The Pacers (30-24) have won six of their last eight games and six in a row at home. Led by first time All-Star Victor Oladipo, the Pacers are a tough-nosed team that has a top 10 offense, but has been thriving off their defense as of late. Over the past 16 games, Indiana has limited its opponents to 101.1 points per game, held their opponents to 31.4% from 3-point, and forced 15.9 turnovers per game. All three are the fourth-best rankings in the NBA over that span. The Pacers have held 12 of their last 16 opponents to 101 or fewer points.
The Sixers (25-25) have lost four of their last five games, including a 100-92 loss on Saturday to the Pacers. The Wizards and Sixers have split their two games this season, with Philadephia winning the last one at home in November. The Sixers are built on defense and their young nucleus, but can be forced into turnovers and tough shots. J.J. Redick is back from injury, and first-time All-Star Joel Embiid finally seems healthy, as he played in his first career back-to-back over the weekend.
For the first time since the Wizards won in Boston on Christmas, the Wizards will welcome the Celtics (39-15) to D.C. on Thursday. The Celtics have been dealing with a lot of injuries lately, with Kyrie Irving, Shane Larkin, Marcus Morris, and Marcus Smart all missing Sunday’s game against Portland. Still, in a key game against the Wizards, you would expect almost all of those guys to give it a go Thursday, although Smart has been out a few weeks. These two teams know each other very well, and the Wizards know they’ll need to attack the NBA’s best defense and limit their turnovers to win.
The Bulls (18-34) continue to play solid basketball after a very slow start to the season. Chicago just traded Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans, but they’re still a young, tough team to go against. Entering Monday’s game against Sacramento, Bulls have been scoring 110.4 points per game in the last month, another gradual increase from month-to-month this season. The Bulls rely on the 3-ball heavily, making 40.8% of triples in wins and only 33.8% in losses. Washington will get Chicago on a back-to-back as the Bulls play the Timberwolves at home on Friday in Jimmy Butler’s return to United Center.
That’s been Bradley Beal’s answer to why the Wizards ball movement has been so good the last four games. The quote comes from the movie “Paid in Full” and Beal’s enjoyed applying it to the team’s success. If you work hard and make the extra pass, you get rewarded. Draw a double-team and find the open man? Let your teammate eat and get in on the scoring.
Beal and the Wizards dished out 35 assists on 46 made field goals on Saturday against Orlando, now totaling 132 assists on their last 173 field goals in the team’s last four games. That 76.3% assist rate is the best in the NBA over that stretch, and only second to the Warriors since January 13. Saturday was the Wizards' fifth consecutive game with 25-plus assists, which is the Wizards’ longest streak since November 6-16, 2010. The streak ties the eighth-longest streak in the NBA this season.
Washington’s ball movement is coming from a higher number of passes in the halfcourt offense. On the season, the Wizards are 25th in the league in passes per game at 284.4, yet fifth in the NBA in potential assists at 47.1. During the team’s winning streak, the Wizards are fifth in the league in passes per game at 321.0, and first in the NBA in assists (33.0), potential assists (56.3), and secondary assists (6.0).
Satoransky stepping up on both ends
Much of the team’s success has come from Tomas Satoransky and Beal stepping up in John Wall’s absence. Satoransky has averaged 11.0 points, 5.8 assists, 1.5 steals, and only 1.5 turnovers per game filling in for Wall. Satoransky’s defense has been the most impressive, as opponents are only scoring 95.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and 113.7 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor. The Czech guard particularly played incredible defense on Russell Westbrook last week, and he’s been up to the task to take on the opponent’s ball handlers.
Morris’ play of late
Markieff Morris is averaging 18.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and shooting 58.6% from the field and 44.4% from beyond the arc in the Wizards’ last five games. With Wall out, the Wizards need another starter to step up offensively, and Morris has delivered. Hobbled by injury much of the season, it appears Morris is healthy and back to his scoring ways. When Morris scores 15 or more points in a game this season, the Wizards are 10-2, once again proving Keef’s importance to the team.