Preview: Wizards take on Thunder Monday night in D.C.
The Wizards look for their fifth consecutive win on Monday night, hosting the Thunder at 8:00 P.M. at Capital One Arena. Washington is coming off a dominant win over Detroit while Oklahoma City will be playing in the second game of a road back-to-back after a loss to the Raptors on Sunday night. Monday will be the first of two matchups between the Wizards and Thunder this week with the teams slated to meet again in Oklahoma City on Friday night.
Davis Bertans is set to make his return to the lineup after missing two games for the birth of his son. Alex Len, who was listed as a game-time decision with left ankle soreness, will play. Rui Hachimura (left knee soreness) will not play after departing Washington’s game against Detroit early on Saturday night.
Capital One Arena | 8:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Bradley Beal, G – Raul Neto, F – Deni Avdija, C – Alex Len
Thunder: G – Theo Maledon, G – Ty Jerome, F – Kenrich Williams, F – Darius Bazley, C – Moses Brown
Wizards: Thomas Bryant (left ACL injury – out), Rui Hachimura (left knee soreness – out), Alex Len (left ankle soreness – available)
Thunder: Gabriel Deck (not with team – out), Luguentz Dort (right hip strain – out), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (right foot plantar fasciitis – out), Josh Hall (bilateral knee soreness – out), Mike Muscala (right ankle sprain – out), Isaiah Roby (right great toe sprain – out)
Smith’s revamped shooting form showing positive returns
From February 14 to April 1, Ish Smith missed 24 consecutive games for the Wizards as he recovered from a right quadriceps strain. In that time, the Wizards went on one of their best runs of the season, winning seven of eight games in late February – and one of their worst stretches, a 2-10 stretch immediately after. As the team went through its ups and down, Smith was a constant presence on the bench, encouraging teammates and coaching up younger players. His most notable use of the time, however, was a revaluation of his own game and a refurbished shooting form.
“So when I was hurt, it’s crazy, it was a blessing in disguise,” Smith said Saturday. “It truly was a blessing. I remember that me and [Wizards assistant coach] Corey Gaines, my guy – I’ve known Corey since I was in Phoenix in 2013. The only thing I could do is shoot in a chair. Last year, I shot a high percentage from three, but it was a little janky. Let’s call a spade a spade, it was a little janky. My mid-range was fluid, but spot-ups were a little janky. We broke some stuff down, wanted to make it a little smoother and easier and so shooting in the chair helped a lot. Now, I think it’s become a little more fluid and easier.”
The tweaks appear to be working. Smith has been notably efficient since his return from injury, shooting 55.0% from the field on 6.7 attempts per game in a reserve role. Sunday against the Pistons, he scored a season-high 16 points on 6-8 (.750) from the field to go along with five assists. Smith’s impactful return could be a crucial boost for the Wizards down the stretch, easing some of the backcourt workload off the shoulders Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.
Westbrook looks to continue triple-double tear against former team
After another triple-double on Saturday against the Pistons, Westbrook is now the first player in NBA history to record 15 triple-doubles in a 20-game span, according to Elias Sports Bureau. He notched his 25th triple-double of the season in his 49th game, the second-fewest games needed to hit that mark in NBA history. This season, he’s recording triple-doubles at a rate faster than he did during the 2016-17 season in which he set the NBA record for triple-doubles in a season (42). This week, he’ll get the chance to continue that run against the team where he established himself as one of the most well-rounded guards in the history of the league.
Westbrook spent the first 11 years of his 13-year career in Oklahoma City, earning eight All-Star appearances, eight All-NBA teams, two scoring titles and a Most Valuable Player trophy in 2016-17. The first seven seasons of Westbrook’s stint with the Thunder came under the guidance of Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. In their time together, Oklahoma City reached the Western Conference Finals three times and the NBA Finals once.
OKC struggling without SGA
The Thunder have lost 10 consecutive games and are 1-13 in their last 14 since March 24. Their lone win in that time came against a struggling Raptors team playing without star guard Kyle Lowry. The low point of their recent string of losses came last week against the Warriors, a 38-point home loss in which they gave up 50 points in the third quarter alone. Oklahoma City’s slide can pretty directly be attributed to the loss of their dynamic starting point guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has missed the last 13 games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot and is out indefinitely. Gilgeous-Alexander had been playing the best basketball of his three-year career, averaging 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists in over 33 minutes per game. In his absence, the Thunder have struggled to generate much scoring, recording an offensive rating of 98.8, which ranks last in the league.