Washington and Utah start the final stretch of the season headed in different direction. The Wizards couldn't wait for the All-Star break to arrive after a woeful loss to the Bucks, whereas the Jazz were hoping the All-Star break would get pushed back a few weeks. Utah has won eight of their past ten games and are currently clinging on to the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
The Wizards are just 3-7 in their last 10 games, and are hoping that this first game of a back-to-back-to-back will be the catapult they need to make a push towards the playoffs.
John Wall has been nursing a knee injury but looked just fine in the All-Star game so there's no reason for concern there.
When: February 18th @ 7 PM EST.
Where: Verizon Center
TV: CSN Mid-Atlantic
Radio: 99.1 WNEW
Injury Report: For the Wizards, Kris Humphries, Gary Neal AND ALAN ANDERSON will be game-time decisions.
Injury update: Alan Anderson (ankle) went through full practice today.— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) February 17, 2016
For the Jazz: Alec Burks is out with a bum ankle, Trey Burke and Chris Johnson are game-time decisions.
What to Watch
The First Five Minutes: The Wizards played the Cavs in their first game after the All-Star break last year. In the blink of an eye, the Wizards were down double figures. That set the tone for the rest of the game as they ended up getting smoked 127-89. Just like last year, the team was struggling heading into the All-Star break so it'll be interesting to see if the week off rejuvenated them or if their heads are still in the Cayman Islands; or wherever these guys vacation. You'll be able to tell early by the energy they exude on defense if they are focused and ready to play or still in vacation mode.
Did the Wizards talk about defense over the break? I know I'm beating a dead horse here but if the Wizards are ever going to turn this thing around, it's got to start on the defensive end. The Jazz are 26th in the league in scoring so on paper, this looks like a potential opportunity for the Wizards to dig in defensively and keep a team under 100 points. Back to my point above, the energy in the first minutes of the game will show you where this team's head is.
Wizard Killer Nominee - Rodney Hood
Hood is averaging 14.9 points per game this season but 20 points per game in the five games leading up to the All-Star break. Someone get a hand in this guy's face.