On the same day they disclosed ominous news about Dwight Howard's injury, the Wizards were served a direct reminder of his absence in their 125-104 loss to the Pelicans on Wednesday night.
That's not to say the Wizards were a juggernaut in the nine games Howard played. But they sure could have used him as they went up against Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle and the Pelicans' fortified frontcourt.
New Orleans out-rebounded the Wizards 64-38. They had 62 points in the paint compared to the Wizards' 38 and Washington only managed 16 free throw attempts. Also, with John Wall and Bradley Beal having off shooting nights, they could have used a big center to set screens to free them up. Those are all things Howard usually helps with.
Though the Wizards weren't perfect in those nine games with Howard, some splits suggest they have been markedly better with him than without him.
With Howard, the Wizards have allowed their opponents to score 112.6 points and grab 43.7 rebounds per game. In their 12 games without him, Wizards opponents have scored 122.5 points and averaged 51.8 rebounds per game.
That means the Wizards are giving up nearly 10 more points per game without Howard than they are with him. That is a huge margin.
With Howard, they have been a mediocre defense and without him they have been historically bad. Their 118.2 points allowed average per game this season is highest in the NBA and already on pace to be the worst since the 1990-91 Denver Nuggets.
So far, the Wizards are only 4-5 with Howard. But they are 4-8 when he's out of the lineup and they were out-rebounded in all eight of those losses.
Head coach Scott Brooks told reporters in New Orleans on Wednesday that Howard is off to see a nerve specialist in Los Angeles. He has apparently been shut down from basketball activities to seek another opinion after another setback.
Even when Howard was playing for the Wizards, he wasn't 100 percent. He couldn't spring above the rim like he's used to. That was exhibited by his four blocks in nine games. Last year alone, Howard had 11 games with four blocks or more. The guy blocks shots in his sleep.
But despite playing through pain, Howard still gave the Wizards a boost defensively and especially on the glass. That is extra-apparent in games against star big men like Davis, and up next is Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.
As intriguing as Thomas Bryant is, and as versatile as Markieff Morris and Jeff Green have proven to be, there is a good chance the longer Howard stays out, the more the Wizards will want him back.
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