Matchup: Washington Wizards (9-11) at New Orleans Pelicans (5-16)
When: Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. (TV: CSN, CSNMidatlantic.com via NBC Sports Live Extra)
When last we met: First game this season.
Streaks: Win one, lose one in't just a common phrase, but Washington's current pattern. Starting with Toronto guard Cory Joseph's buzzer-beating 3-pointer on Nov. 28 and ending with Thursday's 109-103 setback against James Harden and the Rockets: L, W, L, W, L, W, L. Two of the wins have come on the road, which is where the Wizards will play their next four games...The Pelicans early struggles aren't going away. New Orleans has lost five of six games including 111-93 against the Boston Celtics.
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Three things to watch
1. What happened to super small ball against the Rockets? Sure, center Marcin Gortat returned after a three-game absence so the Wizards weren't lack for size at the start and as needed. Still, it was interesting that Wizards coach Randy Wittman never deployed the 5-man group with forwards Otto Porter or Jared Dudley at center that worked effectively in recent games, including Monday's comfortable road win over the Miami Heat. Every lineup included either Gortat or DeJuan Blair, who served as the backup center over Ryan Hollins with Kris Humphries joining Nene and Drew Gooden in street clothes. Blair had two rebounds in 12 scoreless minutes.
Yet it's not so much Blair's lack of production that brings the lineup decision into question, but Houston's lineup choices. The Rockets talked postgame about how using four guards together helped fuel their offense.
“Oh we went four tiny people at one point," Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "What we were looking for against their pressure, we just wanted to put multiple ballhandlers and playmakers on the floor. Anchor the middle of the floor with one of our big guys and then we put four guys on the floor who could handle, who could pass, and who could make shots. When you got that type of weapons on the floor, it makes it harder to do all those things and that's why I think we turned it over less.”
Note the pat about "one of our big guys." Going super small against Miami worked in part because Heat center Hassan Whiteside doesn't have the postgame to take advantage of a much small player defending him. Dwight Howard does, but in the second game of a back-to-back and dealing with a bad back, Houston's center only played 28 minutes against Washington. The offensively-challenged Clint Capela played 21 minutes. Though he made 5 of 7 field goal attempts, the buckets were dunks or off pick-and-roll, not one-on-one moves. Defensively, the 6-foot-9 Capela is agile, but doesn't play on the perimeter. He would have defending Dudley or Porter.
"I kind of was when Capela was in at the five," Wizards guard John Wall said when asked if he was surprised Washington didn't go with the small ball look. "Our game plan is to go out there and play [against] whoever is on the court. Whatever coach is doing, we respect his decision no matter what he's doing and just go out there and compete."
Going super small against Pelicans star and freaky athlete Anthony Davis won't work. Gortat likely ends up defending Davis unless New Orleans center Omar Asik plays heavy minutes.
2. Backcourt battle -- Wall ranking among the NBA leaders in assists isn't surprising. That Ish Smith does is. Smith, a final training camp cut by Washington, is sixth with 7.3 assists, one slot behind Wall (8.3). Don't knock the Wizards for waiving Smth -- there was no room at the Inn -- but credit the veteran point guard for landing on his feet and dropping dimes.
3. The 3-point Brow -- Anthony Davis remains a force inside on both ends of the court, but he's now expanded his range out to the 3-point line. The 6-foot-10 forward is shooting 35.3 percent (12 of 34) from beyond the arc after entering the season 3 of 27 for his career.
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