Coming off an overtime loss last night at Miami, the Wizards (14-29) forced the late-night flight to Cleveland for a matchup with the Cavaliers (12-32) at 7:00 P.M. on Thursday. The street back-to-back is the group’s fourth of the season and the longest from distance traveled. The Wizards enter Thursday’s matchup seeking to snap a five-game road losing streak.
Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse| 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Isaiah Thomas, G – Gary Payton II, G – Bradley Beal, F – Thomas Bryant, C – Ian Mahinmi
Cavaliers: G – Darius Garland, G – Collin Sexton, F – Cedi Osman, F – Kevin Love, C – Tristan Thompson
Wizards: Rui Hachimura (groin injury – out), Garrison Mathews (sprained right ankle – out), Anzejs Pasecniks (sprained left ankle – available), Moritz Wagner (sprained left ankle – out), John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out)
Cavaliers: John Henson (low back soreness – probable), Brandon Knight (left knee soreness – out), Kevin Porter Jr. (left knee sprain – out), Dylan Windler (left lower leg stress reaction – out), Ante Zizic (illness – out)
Bradley Beal enters Thursday night’s game against the Cavaliers coming off one of his best matches of the entire year — a 38-point, nine-rebound, five-assist showing last night in South Beach that included 25 points in the second half and overtime to lead the Wizards’ comeback. Beal struggled from heavy, hitting just 2-8 (.250) from 3-point range, but was almost unstoppable in his efforts to get into the rim, hitting 10-12 (.833) from inside 10 feet of the basket. The game was the fifth this season with 35 points, five rebounds and five assists, which trails Luka Doncic, only James Harden and Trae Young of Beal.
“(Beal) simply does a lot of things well,” Heat forward Jimmy Butler said postgame. “You’ve got to always be alert. Whether it’s off the dribble, off the grab, pick-and-roll or post up. That’s what All-Stars and superstars do.”
Beal has played this season in the next match of back-to-backs, averaging 29.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in four such games. Most recently, on the back end of Washington’s Toronto-to-Philadelphia back-to-back in mid-December, Beal totaled eight rebounds a game-high 36 points and six assists. Beal has scored points in his past five games against the Cavaliers, including a 31-point, seven-assist functionality in the Wizards’ game in Cleveland.
Mahinmi performing a little bit of what
After missing over a month while rehabbing an Achilles injury to open the season, Ian Mahinmi has now started the last twenty games for the Wizards and has enhanced in that role with every passing week. In his last six games, Mahinmi is averaging 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, affecting the match on multiple levels and completing a frontcourt function the Wizards have been lost all season as large guys have swapped in and out because of injury. Mahinmi’s peaks — a 25-point game against Miami on December 20 and a 21-point match against Detroit on Monday — mark the just two 20-point games of his 11-year career, but what’s defined his recent run has been his ability to perform just a little bit of everything. Since January 1, in Washington’s 11 matches, Mahinmi has six games with seven rebounds; four matches with at least three assists, including a career-high seven against Utah on January 12; six games with numerous blocks and three matches with multiple steals. His do-it-all manufacturing from the center position has helped stabilize the Wizards’ spinning and will probably be in demand Thursday against a Cavaliers frontcourt of Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.
Cleveland’s cold streak
The Cavaliers come into Thursday’s matchup having lost five in a row, 10 of their past 12 and are coming from a loss. Since December 31, the beginning of its dropping stretch, Cleveland ranks last in defensive evaluation (117.3) and second-to-last in net evaluation (-10.8) and opponents have taken over 50.0percent from the field in four of their past five matches. The Wizards will need to bear in mind second-year guard Collin Sexton, who has played the best basketball of his career over the past three weeks. Sexton is averaging a team-high 22.4 points in 35.0 minutes per match since January 1. He’s vastly improved his long-lived shooting at the time, shooting 46.3% from heavy in January, up from 27.3% of his first 33 games of the season.