Back-to-back loses aren't allowed for the Wizards given where they are in the standings which is outside the playoff picture in the East. After an off-day, they'll travel Monday to begin a three-game road trip out West. The pressure mounts on John Wall.
“It’s not really about the three coming up, it’s about having the tiebreaker against them," Wall said Saturday, after a 100-99 loss to the Indiana Pacers which cost them the season series. "We would’ve been a half-game behind them, but if we had won this game we really would have been a game ahead of them because we would have the tiebreaker. It’s a situation where there was an opportunity for us to take advantage of.”
It's a familiar story for the Wizards (30-32), who had the crutch of injuries to lean on as they've struggled to get above .500 for the first time since Nov. 24.
Bradley Beal went down with a pelvic injury in the third quarter and didn't return. The Wizards blew a 14-point lead and exactly what will Beal's availability will be for this road trip is uncertain. He's expected to travel with the team but be listed as questionable.
“I know he’s frustrated," said Wall. "He’s been coming off the bench most of the time he’s been back and putting a lot of work in to come back and be healthy and help this team make a final playoff push."
So let's assume Beal isn't able to play all three games, or even at all, what are the Wizards to do? Garrett Temple is a defensive option at shooting guard and hasn't played well since the All-Star break though his 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting vs. the Pacers was a step in the right direction.
There's are a few options to consider that might see radical, or even far-fetched, but at this point the Wizards have to change the narrative starting with Tuesday's game at the Portland Trail Blazers (CSN, CSNmidatlantic.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, 10 ET):
- Instead of predictably plugging in Temple in Beal's place, what about Otto Porter? He has played some at the two spot and is a good enough defender for the position and clearly needs a change of scenery given his recent struggles.
- Start Alan Anderson, left ankle permitting, at small forward. He has the three-point range, which Porter has lacked, strength and tenacity defensively to bother players on the wing.
- Move up rookie Kelly Oubre, who has been out of the rotation, behind Anderson as the backup small forward. This would be a major risk because getting his game legs back under him for mostly sitting all of this time will be a challenge. Oubre's individual defense is OK as long as he avoids the cheap fouls but it's his team defense, missing rotations which was a problem for Porter when he was a rookie, too, that has kept him nailed to the bench.
- Jared Dudley is the backup power forward and is a stretch option. Playing him at small forward sounds like a good idea but it's not really. Smaller, quicker players are at that position and putting him there would break down the defense. His minutes have decreased significantly now that Markieff Morris is the starter so if Dudley isn't hot instantly there probably has to be a quicker hook for him. If a more physical player with size is needed to just battle inside, that's why J.J. Hickson was added to the bench.
- Back to Porter, he had some success playing at the four spot before the All-Star break. A few of his best games have come from there so why not go back to it? He scored his career high (28 vs. Dallas) as a power forward. His quickness will cause matchup problems for those who guard him there. He'll need help, however, if he's being posted up on the other end.