The Washington Wizards have been bitten fairly harshly by the injury bug and they’re only a few months into the season. Bradley Beal is expected to remain out for two weeks with a leg injury. Washington’s on a four game road trip, most recently beat the Dallas Mavericks behind a career night for Otto Porter Jr. Beal’s missed the last two games, leaving his All-Star backcourt mate to carry the load in his absence. John Wall has been nothing short of amazing this month, he’s averaging 27 points and 11 assists. The guard struggled with his shot to start the year while Beal was playing rather well, since then the “Wall-Star” is officially back. The Wizards are going to need him to remain as close to this level of play for the remainder of the season.
Washington’s struggled to find consistency for long stretches this season. One of their positives of late has been the “assertive” version of Otto Porter Jr. The lanky wing has the ability to hit shots from beyond the arc as he shot 37.5% from that distance last season. He’s struggled mightily this year from that distance, but he needs to keep shooting as teams have struggled to sag off of him a bit. With Washington playing him as a small-ball four at times, the Wizards really need for Otto to keep shooting and start hitting those shots to help balance the floor so teams can’t just funnel Wall’s drives. Against the Mavs, Porter hit four of his eight attempts from deep and shot 11-of-18 from the floor during his 28-point outing. Again, showing that he has the ability to stretch the floor and also produce in a greater role than initially cast.
The Wizards have shot over 50% from the floor in their last two games, they’ll be visiting the ornery Grizzlies tonight. Memphis is struggling this season as well as their way of playing basketball is a bit behind the league’s. With teams going smaller with those Warrior like lineups or even putting four wings around a center, it’s hard to trot out Gasol and Randolph. The Grizzlies gave up a 16-point lead this weekend on the road in Miami, only to lose by three. It was a big loss for Memphis who like Washington has struggled to find consistency. The Grizz have been good in wins and just awful in losses, 10 of their 12 losses have been by 20 plus points.
Memphis may have made it’s first attempt to get with the times with a change to their starting lineup against Miami. Zach Randolph was taken out of the starting five for Matt Barnes, and attempt to play four-around-one. Similar to Washington, they’re in the process of trying to find their groove with variations of small-ball. The change at least helped them shoot over 50% against Miami, it was Randolph’s first time coming off the bench since 2013.
One of the matchups in this game that will be interesting is that of Matt Barnes/Jeff Green versus Otto Porter/Jared Dudley. Which stretch four/five duo will produce most? That’ll play a large role in tonight’s game. The biggest issue may be how Memphis deals with John Wall, that battle with Mike Conley play a factor in the outcome. If Washington can get another strong outing from “assertive” Otto, they may be able to string back-to-back victories which would certainly help them move up in their division.