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Wizards vs. Pelicans preview: Washington returns home for Friday night match

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After a long road trip, Washington’s back at home.

NBA: Washington Wizards at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

When: Friday, April 16 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Capital One Arena in Washington, DC

How to watch: NBC Sports Washington

Injury Report

Wizards: Daniel Gafford (Shoulder, Game-Time Decision); Jordan Bell (Non-Injury, Game-Time Decision); Thomas Bryant (Knee, Out)

Pelicans: Lonzo Ball (Hip, Game-Time Decision); Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Ankle, Out); Josh Hart (Thumb, Out)

Pregame notes

Following Wednesday night’s win in Sacramento, the Wizards return home from its trip out west sitting one behind the play-in places (but effectively two because of tiebreakers with the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors). Tomorrow, Washington faces the New Orleans Pelicans. Buoyed by the two-game win streak, it's time to recommence the trash talk, folks. That 6th, 7th, or 8th seed will be ours.

But when we were struggling, folks down in the bayou were fanning the flames of the #FreeBeal campaign. “Trade him to us,” Pelicans leaflets read. And some of us came close to biting the apple. But here we are, both sitting 11th in our respective conferences.

To aid in previewing tomorrow's game, I got with NOLA native, Keith Haywood. As always, call it Bulletin Board Material

What to look for

Ron Oakes-Cunningham: Look, Zion Williamson is sensational. And Steven Adams is strong, like, hard g-sound strong. Their skillset might be a gumbo mix of the irresistible force paradox. Forget about what happens when they meet; look how dominant they are when they merge! It’s potent stuff, except it doesn't win games.

But whereas here in DC, we possess something truly more special: We have Robin ‘Hook’ Lopez, Alex Len, and Daniel “Go-Go” Gafford! Operating within a three-center ecosystem, each one of our guys will pose a problem to the Pelicans frontcourt.

Take Steven Adams. He’s strong, sure, but Alex Len will find a way to convert some of Russ’s dump downs into baskets. It’s what Alex Len does. As for Robin Lopez, Robin’s hook shot was working against the Utah Jazz defensive stopper, Rudy Gobert. It’s possible but very unlikely that Adams will do what the two-time Defensive Player of the Year couldn’t. And what happens when he’s later switched on to Gafford? Poster alert! And as for Zion, he gets one bar: He doesn’t play defense. He’ll need help.

I think we win this game inside. I mean we have to; neither team can hit threes! So on the menu is our three-headed center ecosystem and the Pels irresistible force gumbo. The center ecosystem is the popular choice. Enjoy

Keith Haywood: Let’s cut to the chase: anyone who will be watching the Pelicans vs. Wizards game will be seeing plenty of Zion Williamson. Without even a full season under his belt (72 games played), Zion has already shown his unmatched ability to finish through, around, and over defenders in the paint. With Lonzo Ball’s recent injury battles, Stan Van Gundy has been letting Williamson, with his overwhelming quickness and strength, control the flow of the game. I’m sure Wizards fans think that Bertans, Gafford, and company (eh) will be able to bang under the rim; but I ask you, what will they do with 6’7” 284 lbs. of muscle charging full speed from the opposite free-throw line?

*Checks Washington Wizards roster*

And no one on your team can stop the MIP, Brandon Ingram. Do you guys even have a small forward? I’m a huge fan of Rui Hachimura—he’ll have a great career—but he’s a power forward. Bertans? Yeah, didn’t think he was the answer either. Needless to say, Brandon Ingram is going to have himself a night. BI is averaging 24.1 PPG with 47%/38.2%/88.3% splits, and while he has taken the passenger seat to Zion, he continues to make his presence felt throughout the game. And I’ll be remiss if I didn’t mention that BI gave the Wizards 32 6 and 8 the last time we played. Good luck, buddy.