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Wizards vs Hornets preview: Washington looks to bounce back against division rival

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NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

When: Wednesday, December 14th, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Verizon Center; Washington, DC
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 1500 AM and Wizards Radio App

Injury Report

Wizards: Ian Mahinmi (Out, Knee), Danuel House (Out, Wrist)
Hornets: None

What To Watch For

Can the Wizards Protect the Rim?

The Wizards are the third worst team in the league when it comes to defending shots in the paint, allowing opponents to shoot 55 percent on 29 shots at the rim. The reasons are numerous (bigs struggling to defend in space, guards struggling to fight over screens, Ian Mahinmi struggling to be healthy), but alas, it’s a layup line every time the Wizards take the court, and that’s why they’ve struggled to hold all but five of their opponents to 100 points.

The Hornets score 73.2 percent of their points on drives, so the Wizards must figure out a way to keep Kemba Walker and company from converting at the rim.

Is the Wizards bench finding their footing?

On the year, the Wizards still have the second worst bench in the league, with a net rating of -11 points per 100 possessions, but things have looked up for the Wizards’ backups as of late — over their last five games, they’ve registered a net rating of just -4.0, good for 18th worst in the league. Hooray progress!

Be it Satoransky’s return to the bench, or the heretofore unseen defensive intensity from Marcus Thornton (I, for one, credit Jason Smith and his blistering 73.1 percent true shooting percentage over his last five games), but the Wizards bench just might be passable.

Will the Wizards be showcasing soon-to-be-departed talent?

The NBA’s trade season begins in earnest this Thursday, December 15th; the end of the period teams must wait before they’re allowed to ship off players acquired in the off-season. As many readers have pointed out in the last few weeks, this team needs a shakeup STAT if they plan on making the playoffs this season. Could this be the last night we see fan favorites like Trey Burke and Andrew Nicholson in a Wizards Uniform? Does the “Big 3” become the “Big Two-Plus-Draft-Picks”? Will John Wall and Demarcus Cousins finally end their 'will they/won’t they” drama and hook up already? Who knows, but expect the rumor mill to begin ramping up as soon as this one’s over.

Most Likely Wizards Killer: Marco Belinelli

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Belinelli was a strange acquisition for the Hornets this off-season, and while the Italian sharpshooter hasn’t replaced the outgoing Courtney Lee in Charlotte’s lineup, he has found a comfortable role with the team, averaging 10.9 points on 45/44/89 splits off the bench. Marco’s coming off a 14 point night against the pacers, and a 15 point night against the Cavs. He’ll carve up the Wizards bench if they don’t keep an eye on him.