After falling flat against Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics, the Pelicans must turn their attention to perhaps the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference. The Washington Wizards and John Wall and Bradley Beal will make an appearance Friday night at the Smoothie King Center.
After finishing 46-36 a season ago, the Wizards find themselves 11th in the standings with a 9-11 record. Inconsistency has been the name of the game, and one needs to look no further than what's transpired in December. They've notched wins at Cleveland and Miami but lost at home to the Lakers and Rockets.
Wall and Beal are a handful, averaging 39.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 11.5 assists, 3.5 threes and 3.5 steals. Although they also turn the ball over 7 times a game, their versatility all over the floor downplays most of their mistakes. Look for the duo to especially be active with a number of key big men (Nene Hilario, Kris Humphries and Drew Gooden) possibly sitting out Star Wars night in New Orleans.
The Wizards offense and defense rank in the bottom third of the league, but the Pelicans should fear the matchup. They haven't fared well against teams that like to push the pace this season (Warriors, Rockets and Celtics). Washington is third in pace and John Wall is as fast as they come. It will be vital for the Pelicans do slow down at least one of them.
3 Keys to Victory
- Jrue Holiday, the All-Star, needs to show up. Much like with Russell Westbrook, it's difficult to ask one player to stop one of the elite point guards in the NBA like John Wall, yet that's exactly what the Pelicans will need to do. There is no one on the roster better adept at handling this responsibility as Holiday. Reportedly, he is nearing the end of a number of his restrictions, but more importantly, he has been playing well of late. Over the last 2 weeks (5 games), he has per 36 minute averages of 17.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals/threes. A good game on both ends of the floor would go a long way to securing a much needed New Orleans victory.
- Dominate the inside. The Wizards rank in the bottom five in blocks and points-in-the-paint. Their front court ranks as the second worse in the league in terms of efficiency recap. Injuries have played a part but other personnel have taken a step back like Marcin Gortat. If Humphries misses the contest, there is a good chance Jared Dudley or Otto Porter will be asked to guard Anthony Davis. No way, no how. Davis and the Pelicans need to punish that matchup until the Wizards wave the white flag.
- Force turnovers. Defense is always more fun when a good number of possessions can turn into points on the other end. The Pelicans have had more trouble than the rest of the league in defending opponents for 48 minutes. The Wizards have three starters who average more than 3 turnovers per 36 minutes in Wall, Beal and Gortat. It doesn't take an advanced degree to figure the Pelicans could make make things harsh for the Wizards if they can dial up the intensity and force a number of Washington mistakes.