When: Wednesday, January 3 at 7 p.m.
Where: Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.
TV: NBC Sports Washington
Win probability: Washington has a 79 percent chance of winning, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Wizards: Sheldon Mac (Out, Achilles)
Knicks: Tim Hardaway Jr. (Out, Leg)
What to Watch for
Washington’s backcourt needs to have a night
The Knicks are about as average as it gets. They’re hovering right around .500 with the 15th-ranked offense, the 13th-ranked defense, and the 17th-fastest pace in the league this season. In fact, they’ve even got two guys whose names are so bland that they could be in witness protection (not that we’re saying Ron Baker and Lance Thomas have something to hide, but it can’t be ruled out).
The thing is, the Knicks’ average play isn’t balanced. They have a great collection of big men, but arguably one of the worst backcourts in the league, especially with Tim Hardaway Jr. out of the lineup. Courtney Lee is the only healthy guard who is averaging over 10 points per game. Ramon Sessions is the only Knick who averages over 7 assists per 36 minutes, and he’s been struggling so much that he’s only played 159 minutes over 12 games this season. Defensively, Baker is the only guy who is consistently a factor on that end.
All of this is to say simply that this needs to be a game where John Wall and Bradley Beal dominate. Either they need to have big nights, or use the extra attention they’re getting to ensure Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat, and Markieff Morris are having very effective games. If that doesn’t happen, something is going seriously wrong in this game.
A random moment in Wizards - Knicks history: Washington riding Bradley Beal’s big game to beat New York
Beal’s struggles at the free throw line, coupled with his miss at the end of regulation at the end of Game 2 of their series with the Celtics, has created this weird narrative in some circles that he isn’t clutch. Well, here’s a little reminder from 2014 of the Wizards riding Beal’s hot hand to a victory over the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.