After their gritty win against the Heat earlier this week, the Washington Wizards travel to New Orleans on Friday to take on the Pelicans and history.
After their gritty win against the Heat earlier this week, the Washington Wizards travel to New Orleans on Friday to take on the Pelicans.
New Orleans may be a bit shorthanded in tonight’s matchup. On Thursday, the Pelicans listed Anthony Davis as day-to-day, after he sprained his left ankle against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. He’s doubtful for Friday’s game.
The five-time All-Star is averaging 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and shooting 36.2 percent from three-point range.
Although Washington may be fighting against a team battling injuries, they’re also fighting a team that’s battling against history. The Pelicans are looking to break their franchise record on Friday to have their 11th consecutive win.
This team is on a roll. Although Davis had to leave the Kings game early, the Pelicans went with Jrue Holiday and NiKola Mirotic to close out the fourth quarter and secure their 10th consecutive win.
In his 13 games with New Orleans, Mirotic is averaging 15.6 points and 7.9 rebounds. He’s a known three-point shooter. Although his averages have dipped to 33 percent. Before he left the Bulls this season, he was averaging 42 percent from deep.
Against the Kings, Mirotic scored 26 points off of Holiday’s 17 assists.
Although their losing a lot of points on the floor without Davis, the Holiday – Mirotic combo may fill that hole. At least tonight for a team trying to make history.
With Mirotic on the floor, the Wizards’ bigs will still have to look to defend the perimeter.
The other wildcard or wildcat that Washington has to look out for is Rajon Rondo. Although the veteran guard is only averaging 7.9 points, he’s a very good ball handler. He’s averaging 7.7 percent in assists.
Rondo also knows how to show up when it counts. If he didn’t go down during the Bulls’ playoff matchup against the Celtics, Boston was looking at a first round exit last season.
This game like the past few for Washington will have a playoff feel. Although the Pelicans are in the fourth spot in the West, they’re not sitting comfortably.
Tomas Satoransky should try to control the pace of the game. When he plays at his pace he controls the ball more and does a better job of passing. Also, he shouldn’t fall for any vet moves by Rondo.
Holiday can also push the ball up the court, since he can play both guard positions.
If Ramon Sessions gets playing time, he should try not to whip the ball. John Wall can time his passes at any speed. He knows when a teammate is going to reach a certain spot. That’s a gift unique to him. Right now the team is used to Sato’s controlled passes, which works well in slow-paced matchups.
But do what you do and get to the free throw line. This is a depleted team and as many players that Washington can get into foul trouble the better.
(Sessions can play and pass at a very fast pace, but the team isn’t used to him yet.)
Otto Porter is going to be key tonight. He can also push the ball up the floor for Washington, whether it’s a slow or fast-pace, and should share in point guard duties.
In the middle, Emeka Okafor has been averaging 5 points and 5.6 rebounds. Marcin Gortat should win the battle of the paint in this matchup.
Holiday is having the best season of his career, averaging 19.4 points and 5.8 assists. All-Star Bradley Beal should win that matchup if the bigs do their job, and kick it out to him for those second and third chance points.
It’s going to be an inside game tonight, with the Pelicans cutting and slashing towards the basket. Washington just has to stay out of foul trouble and grab those rebounds on both ends. Above all protect the ball.
One other thing, control the pace. If the Wizards control the tempo in the first quarter, don’t play like it’s the final quarter, conserve some energy. Otherwise this team will wait you out until you get tired.
The Wizards blew a 25-point lead but was able to secure the win against the Pels in their last matchup. That’s another type of history Washington doesn’t want to make.
The Wizards should win this game if they remember to control their pace and keep their composure.
Tip off is at 8:00 PM in the Smoothie King Center.