After losing five of six and making a series of trades to reshape their roster, the Washington Wizards have responded by winning two straight. Those games were against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, two of the worst the NBA hast to offer. On Monday, they will see a Detroit Pistons team that is not only better, but also currently has what the Wizards are chasing.
The Wizards take on the Pistons in Detroit with a 7 p.m. ET tip-off on NBC Sports Washington Plus.
The Pistons sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, after winning three straight games and passing the Miami Heat, who have lost two in a row, including a close one to the Warriors on Sunday. Though the Wizards are 11th in the conference, they are only two games back from a playoff spot. A victory on Monday would tie them in the win column with the three teams ahead of them.
Monday could tell us plenty about the newly shaped Wizards with Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and Wesley Johnson in the fold. All three impressed against Cleveland and Chicago.
Whether they have enough to still compete against playoff-caliber teams, however, has yet to be proven. As much as their trade of Otto Porter Jr. can be justified, he was their second scoring option and a guy who did a lot of different things to help them win.
The stakes for Monday’s game go beyond both team’s overall records. This game will decide the head-to-head season matchup between them. They are tied at 1-1, having each won at home. The Wizards beat the Pistons by 14 points on Jan. 21.
Whoever takes Monday’s game will own the tiebreaker for playoff seeding. Having the tiebreaker over a team like Detroit could end up deciding whether the Wizards make the playoffs or not this season.
The Pistons also made some moves last week with a playoff push in mind. They traded former seventh overall pick Stanley Johnson to the Milwaukee Bucks for Thon Maker. And they signed Wayne Ellington in free agency once he was let go by the Phoenix Suns.
Maker is more of a long-term project and may not help them right away, but Ellington could make a difference immediately. He is expected to debut against the Wizards.
Ellington, 31, has long been a dangerous 3-point shooter with a career percentage of 38.0. This year, he is averaging 8.4 points while shooting 36.8 percent on 6.2 attempts per game from long range.
Offense has been the Pistons’ biggest problem this season, as they rank 23rd among NBA teams both in points and efficiency. Their defense, meanwhile, has been solid, placing ninth in points allowed and defensive rating. Ellington could give them a boost on the end of the floor where they need some help.
The Pistons’ defense will also provide a good test for the Wizards’ revamped scoring attack. With Parker and Portis making key contributions, Washington has averaged 126.5 points in their two games since the trade. The moves they made should help their offense more than anything.
The Wizards have a long road ahead to sort out their rotation and discover exactly what their chances of making the playoffs truly are. But a win on Monday would go a long way towards making those goals appear more realistic.
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