The Wizards look for their first three game win streak of the season as they host the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center. The Wizards have slowly started to string together solid performances against the Eastern Conference and surprisingly find themselves just 1.5 games out of the 8 spot and 2.5 games out of the 3-seed; almost an unimaginable statement just one week ago.
The Clippers, riding a four game winning streak, will be looking for their third straight win against the Southeast Division after beating the Magic and Heat earlier this week.
The Wizards have been far from a great defensive team this season, but are starting to show signs of life as they put forth better defensive efforts against the Hornets and Pistons. This should be the Wizards biggest test this year as the Clippers come into this game averaging 109.6 points per game and have sizeable mismatches at both frontcourt positions.
When: Sunday, December 18th at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: The Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 1500 AM and Wizards Radio App
Wizards: Kelly Oubre (Out, Concussion), Ian Mahinmi (Out, Knee), Danuel House (Out, Wrsit), Jason Smith (Game Time Decision, Hamstring)
Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (Game Time Decision, Shoulder) Brice Johnson (Out, Back)
What to watch
Battle of the point guards
John Wall vs. Chris Paul is always a fun matchup and Sunday afternoon should be no different. Taking care of the ball will be key as both players lead the league with 2.3 steals per contest. Additionally, Wall and Paul come in as the third and fourth best assist men in the NBA with 9.6 and 9.4 per game respectively.
Like Otto Porter said after Friday’s victory, “We go as John Wall goes.” This isn’t exactly breaking news but it’ll be hard for the Wizards to win this one if Wall doesn’t have a great performance and win the battle of the point guards.
Who’ll guard Blake Griffin?
Griffin leads the Clippers with 21 points a game and will likely have a mismatch regardless of who guards him. A combination of foul trouble, the emergence of Kelly Oubre Jr., and easing back into the groove after a foot injury slowed down Morris as he played just 18 minutes against the Pistons. Assuming no setbacks, Morris will likely start out matched up against Griffin. Morris can get physical with Griffin but Griffin is much quicker than Morris both with and without the ball.
If the Wizards go small and either Porter or Oubre is tasked with guarding Griffin, that’s no easy feat either as Griffin will be able to over power the duo. On paper, the power forward position looks like the biggest matchup issue for the Wizards. They’ll need a collective effort from Morris, Porter, and Oubre to keep Griffin in check.
Have the Wizards turned the corner?
This will be the last game against a Western Conference opponent before the New Year. The rest of the December schedule features games against mediocre and average Eastern Conference opponents. We’ll know after tomorrow if the Wizards have turned a corner and are righting the ship after this Clippers game.
If the Wizards win this one, this will obviously be the best win of the season thus far. If they can keep things competitive and have a fighting chance in the fourth quarter, that’ll also be a good sign. However, if the Wizards lose the battle on the glass, get little help from the bench, and struggle to keep this game within a 10-point margin, it’ll be time to pump the brakes once again.
Most Likely Wizards Killer: J.J. Redick
To no one’s surprise, the sharpshooter is knocking down 45.7 percent of his field goals and 42.8 percent of his three-point attempts. Bradley Beal has been known to struggle against catch-and-shoot guys who run and curl off of screens for open three-pointers. If Redick gets going early, watch out as Beal could be in for a long night on the defensive end.