Game Preview: Pelicans at Wizards

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

After a close loss last night, the Pelicans will need to find the strength to quickly rebound for their match-up against the Wizards Saturday. Despite this Eastern conference foe is only 5-5 in their last 10 games, they've recently had several fantastic wins over both the Thunder and Blazers.

Although not as stout as the Bobcats, the Wizards defense is their calling card (9th best defensive rating). They are very good at not giving opponents easy looks -- limiting both points in transition and the amount of offensive rebounds.

However, unlike Charlotte, Washington relies heavily on their backcourt, which is considered Top 10 in the league. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been the nice young duo many predicted, but it's been the emergence of Trevor Ariza that has been the most impressive. In particular, his perimeter shot! Did you know Ariza currently is sporting a 3PT% over 40%? A TS% of 57.9%? And it's not due to some lucky small sample size -- he attempts 6.0 three-point attempts a game (12th most in the league)!

It's safe to say he's performing leaps and bounds better than he ever did in a New Orleans uniform, even better than the nice little run he had as a Laker. His play this season is largely why I figured Otto Porter might have been available prior to the trade deadline. Between Ariza and Martell Webster, there simply doesn't appear to be that much of a future for Porter as I don't believe Washington will let Ariza walk after his contract is up.

Three keys to victory:

  • Get Washington to shoot long 2's. On the year, the Wizards have shot the ball 920 times from 15-19 feet. That's 2nd most in the association. Moreover, they're awful from that range, ranking 5th worst. So overplay Webster, Beal and Ariza and chase all their 40+ 3FG% off the three-point line.
  • Pound the paint. As mentioned, easy points are hard to come against team so at a minimum, we need to focus on getting plenty of looks in close. This will hopefully slow the game down and the Wizards 6th best 16.4 fast break points a game.
  • Help Brian Roberts. The Wizards are top 10 in assists and in general, John Wall's strength and athleticism will be too much for Roberts. Whether Monty Williams employs a special help gameplan for tonight or simply give Austin Rivers more run than usual, something needs to be done prior to tip-off.
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