Matchup: Washington Wizards (22-26) at Charlotte Hornets (24-26)
When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. (TV: CSN, CSNMidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra)
Season series: 1-1. Washington won the previous meeting, 109-101 on Dec. 19 as John Wall scored 27 points and Garrett Temple had 21.
Streaks: With Bradley Beal back in the starting lineup, the Wizards snapped a three-game skid with a wire-to-wire 106-94 win over the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night as Wall recorded his fourth career triple-double with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. ...The Hornets fell 98-95 against the Heat Friday night after winning two in a row.
Scenario: The Hornets and Wizards are 9th and 10th respectively in the East. The Pacers (26-24) sit two games ahead of Charlotte, three over Washington for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Pick it up, Porter: With Bradley Beal returning to the starting lineup and Nene sitting out with a calf injury, the Wizards' second unit lacked some of its usual punch Friday night. Coach Randy Wittman often inserts a starter with that group in the second quarter while John Wall and others rest. Against the 76ers, that task fell to Otto Porter with just over 10 minutes remaining before halftime. Often an intangibles-heavy player when on the court with Wall and the other starters, this presented an assertive opportunity for Porter especially with Washington already up by 17 points. Yet the small forward's offensive approach remained the same, remaining part of the chorus instead ascending to the spotlight role. After three largely uneventful minutes, he went back to the bench.
There's no serious long-term judging based on one short segment of a game over an 82-game season. Yet this stretch typified Porter's primary crossroads on the NBA level. It's one thing to know your place when Wall, Beal and Marcin Gortat are around. It's another to pass on taking over when they're not.
When Wall cooks, as he did Friday, the Wizards win or remain in contention until the end. When he doesn't, others must fill in the gaps. More often than not, that hasn't happened this season. Beal certainly has the goods, especially now that he's become more forceful with drives at the rim, but he remains on a minutes watch following his return from another leg stress injury.
It's possible a recent hip injury is hurting Porter's game more than anyone is letting on. Regardless, he has scored fewer than 10 points in four of the last five games.
For the most part this season, the former Georgetown star provided needed activity. He ranks second behind Wall with 1.6 steals. Keeping balls alive on the offensive boards, hockey assists, those subtle plays stat sheets don't always pick up.
The statisticians do track 3-point shooting. Porter's percentage puts him in company with Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. In this case, that's not good. Porter's 30.5 clip on 3-pointers ranks above those All-Stars, but is sixth worst in the league among players with at least 150 attempts. That's not helpful whether in the secondary or primary role.
103 NBA players with 150+ 3ptFGA.
103. LeBron James (26.4%)
102. Kobe Bryant (27.6%)
100. Russ Westbrook (28.7)
98. Otto Porter (30.5)
— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) February 6, 2016
Only the misinformed projected Porter as a true takeover player after the Wizards selected him No. 3 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. That doesn't mean his 3-and-D skill set couldn't be a notable factor for a winning team. He certainly keyed the first-round playoff sweep over Toronto last season.. But that also doesn't mean he can't take more control for those three minute segments. The Wizards need just that if they're going to take control of a playoff berth.
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