Matchup: Washington Wizards (30-31) vs. Indiana Pacers (32-30)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m. (CSN+ and live streaming online at CSNmidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra)
Season series: Series tied 1-1. Saturday's game will be the final meeting of the season between these two teams.
Last meeting: Wizards won 118-104 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Jan. 15
What to know:
Hung over? Both the Wizards and Pacers are coming off road losses last night, so fatigue could be a big factor come game time. Washington's starters barely played in the fourth quarter of a 108-83 blowout in Cleveland. In fact, no Wizard played more than 28 minutes. That doesn't mean the back-to-back will be easy, though, as John Wall could still be smarting from landing awkwardly on his ankle in the third. He's expected to play.
Indy, on the other hand, lost a close one to the Hornets 108-101. That meant all five starters logged at least 30 minutes, with George Hill cracking 40. Add to that more travel and the Pacers could find themselves with heavy legs down the stretch tonight. That's trouble for a team that has lost all seven games on the second night of a back-to-back on the road.
New additions: Though Washington and Indiana have already met twice this season, they're not as familiar with each other's rosters as you might expect. That's because the Wizards now have Markieff Morris (acquired in a trade for Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair) and Alan Anderson (returned from injury). The Pacers are in the process of signing free agent point guard Ty Lawson, but that deal won't get done in time for him to debut at Verizon Center.
As far new Ty Lawson news? There isn't much. Lawson still in Houston working out & expects to sign w/ #Pacers on Sun or Mon, I've been told
— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) March 5, 2016
At 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, Morris adds physicality and aggressiveness to Washington's defense. That will be especially important tonight as he and Garrett Temple try to guard Pacers All-Star Paul George.
Anderson is capable of sparking the Washington offense off the bench. He hung 18 points on the Timberwolves this week by hitting 4 of his 7 three-point attempts.
Indiana's roster might not present new challenges, but the Wizards haven't exactly gotten a handle on the familiar one: George. In two games against Washington this season, the Pacers' leading scorer has averaged 30.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
Closing the gap: The race for the final playoffs spots in the Eastern Conference is incredibly close. The 32-30 Pacers might be in 7th place right now, but they're only 1.5 games up on the 10th place Wizards.
The outcome of tonight's matchup will be critical for both teams' postseason hopes because the victor will hold a 2-1 advantage in the series, a valuable tie-breaker should Washington and Indiana finish the regular season with the same record.
Complicating matters, both 8th place Detroit and 9th place Chicago play tonight. If both of those teams lose and Washington wins, the Wizards could move into a tie with the Pistons for 8th in the East.
It should be an eye-opening evening.