Washington Wizards vs Charlotte Hornets Preview
Washington Wizards (34-24) vs Charlotte Hornets (25-33)
When: Friday , February 23, at 7 p.m.
Where: Capital One Arena , Washington D.C. TV: NBCSWA / Radio: 1500 AM
Wizards: John Wall (Out, Knee)
Hornets won both previous meetings this season against Washington, including a dominate 133-109 victory in Charlotte on Jan. 17. Charlotte set a franchise record with 77 first half points in the rout. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 21 points and Howard finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Washington improved to 8-2 since all star point guard John Wall was sidelined with a knee injury, with a 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.Wizards are a half game behind the Cavs for third in the East standings.
Washington had 29 assists in the game, the 12th time in the last 14 games that the Wizards have recorded 25+ assists in a game, out-assisting their opponents in all 12 instances they reach 25 assists.
25+ Assist Games, Since Jan. 17
Golden State 11
Bradley Beal tied his career high of nine assists for the fourth time this season and the third time in the last nine games. Beal has had at least five assists in 10 of the last 11 games, with the Wizards going 7-3 in those games.
107.4 - points per game
105.5 - points against
46.7 - Field goal %
106.0 - points per game
106.6 - points against
44.2 - field goal %
Keep an eye on:
Kemba Walker: The Hornets all star point guard is the heart and soul of Charlotte and comes in to tonight's match-up fresh off a 31 point performance in a win over the Brooklyn Nets. Walker, who is averaging 23 points and 5.8 assist while only committing 2.2 turnovers a game, is an explosive play-maker capable of putting up points and creating for others in a hurry. In their previous game against the Wizards, Walker won the individual battle with John Wall posting 19 points (6-15 FG), 7 assist and 3 rebounds while Wall finished with 12 points and 9 assist to lead Charlotte to a 133-109 blowout win, a game that saw the Hornets score 77 points in the first half. Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier combo has brought it defensively since Wall went down with injury, if they're able to slow down Walker and maintain their offensive production, things should go drastically in Washington's favor.
Keep Dwight Howard off the boards: Even after major back and knee surgeries, Howard is still a force inside rebounding the ball. In Thursdays win over the Nets, Howard posted 15 points and a game high 24 rebounds. Howard also dominated inside with 18 points and 15 rebounds in a win over Washington on January 17th. Howard's averaging 15.7 points and 12.3 on the season and has been key to helping Charlotte rank third in the NBA in rebounding (45.8). Washington will front line will have to step up as they did in a win over the Cavs Thursday where they out-rebounded Cleveland 52-46. It's simple, when the Wizards control the boards they usually win, when they don't, it usually results in an ugly loss. With the standings being so tight, they can't afford any more losses.
Attack on BOTH ends: When the Wizards are on from outside, it can be a beautiful display of shooting. The issue is when they're off, they tend to settle and it comes back to haunt them late. That's what the Hornets want. They're a very good defensive team and rank second in the league in fouls (17.7) , which means they defend and don't put teams on the line (18.8 FT/second in NBA) for free points. Washington has to attack them more to counteract that. In the win over Cleveland, Washington only shot 10 free throws, however they made all 10. Attacking more will put the Hornets on their heels and should open things up for the Wizards shooters and rebounders.
Washington will have to be aggressive on defense as well, although strategically, to force turnovers. Charlotte is among the best at not turning the ball over, averaging 12.8 turnovers a game which is second in the league. Washington ranks fourth in the NBA at forcing turnovers at 15.2. Against the Cavs, Washington forced 13 turnovers and scored 15 points as a result which ended up being the deciding factor in the 110-103 win. If Washington can frustrate Charlotte with pressure on both ends in these areas, they should enjoy their 35th victory of the season.