Winners of four straight, the Washington Wizards are not a team to be taken lightly despite their 14-14 record. As the Los Angeles Clippers know all too well, you can’t take any opponent lightly – especially one that is as banged up as the Wizards are. The team from the nation’s capital will be without Bradley Beal, Nene Hilario, and Alan Anderson for this contest. However, they’ve won 5 of the 8 games that Beal has missed, including wins over the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies. Beal is the team’s leading scorer, but they’re buoyed by the always exciting John Wall. This season, Wall is averaging 19.5 points, 9.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.1 steals on 43.5 percent from the field, 35.0 percent from deep, and 79.0 percent from the line. He’s the motor.
The physical Marcin Gortat is as steady as the come, averaging 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this year. The real story might be just how well guys like Jared Dudley and Kelly Oubre Jr. are playing, though. Dudley has helped space the floor as a stretch four while Nene has been out, as well as being their defensive quarterback, and Oubre’s inclusion into the starting lineup at small forward has made a difference in the last four games. Oubre’s averaging 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in 26.8 minutes while also connecting on 8 of his 10 attempts from beyond the arc in that stretch. The Wizards are all about space-and-pace right now, so the Clippers will need to get out on their shooters while also denying Wall any driving lanes. It’ll be a tough go of it.
|2015-16 NBA Regular Season|
|December 28, 2015 — 4:00 PM PT|
|Verizon Center (Washington, D.C.)|
|Prime Ticket, CSN, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM|
|Chris Paul||PG||John Wall|
|J.J. Redick||SG||Garrett Temple|
|Luc Richard Mbah a Moute||SF||Kelly Oubre Jr.|
|Paul Pierce||PF||Jared Dudley|
|DeAndre Jordan||C||Marcin Gortat|
|Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)|
||Drew Gooden; Gary Neal; Otto Porter|
||Nene Hilario; Alan Anderson; Bradley Beal|
Despite winning two in a row, Los Angeles has been hit with one of the worst injuries that can happen – a superstar getting sidelined for an extended period of time. If the team is to keep churning out wins, then they’ll need more performances out of key players like the one Paul Pierce had on Saturday night against the Utah Jazz. It was unexpected, but it was also welcomed. As it stands, the team is without their leading scorer, second best assist man, and second best rebounder. That’s a lot of stuff to replace. The bright side is that it appears as if Chris Paul is finally back to his old self after dealing with early season injuries. Over the last six games, Paul is averaging 22.3 points, 9.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.2 steals on 51.6 percent from the floor, 46.2 percent from deep, and 93.3 percent from the line. In other words, he’s back to being the Point God. It’s great to see. He’ll need to keep that up with Blake Griffin out for the foreseeable future.
One of the troubled spots that the team is going through right now is that Jamal Crawford has reverted back to being suboptimal. While Chris Paul has been great in the last six games, Crawford has combined to shoot just 10-of-44 (22.7 percent) from the field and 2-of-12 (16.7 percent) from long range. They need his scoring punch with Griffin out, but he’s yet to get it going outside of a random game here and there. Austin Rivers might be returning from his ankle injury, and the team could use his defensive prowess in certain instances against the likes of Wall. Josh Smith got the start the other night against Utah, but it appears like Pierce will get the nod for this one. Lastly, the bench has to play better as a whole. We’ll see if they can do it in this game. Either way, this is a tough game for a team missing a star player, but Washington is hobbled, as well. Whoever gets the most out of their point guard and center combination will likely win.