The Los Angeles Lakers begin their Grammy road trip tonight in Washington as they face the Wizards. The Lakers are coming a 120-116 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. D’Angelo Russell, who missed the last three game due to injury, returned and played an important role in helping the Lakers come out with a win. He scored 22 points and dished out 10 assists, a career-high. Nick Young and Ivica Zubac also had big nights as they scored 23 and 17 points, respectively.
The Wizards are coming into tonight as arguably the hottest team in the NBA. They have won five straight games, nine of their last 10, and most impressively, 15 straight wins at home. Their latest win is a 117-101 victory over the New York Knicks. Bradley Beal scored 28 points and John Wall finished with 15 points and 13 assists. They will look to extend their win streak with a victory tonight.
The Wizards backcourt is one of the best in the NBA, as Bradley Beal and John Wall hold down the starting roles. Wall is enjoying perhaps his best season as a pro. He is averaging 22.7 points, and ranks second in the league with 10.3 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. Improvement with his shooting has made him even more difficult to defend. Russell will have his hands full tonight guarding one of the best point guards in the league.
Beal is also having a fantastic season so far as he averaging 22 points per game. He can shoot from all over the court, especially from three-point territory, where he is a career 39.4 percent shooter. Whoever is guarding him must make him put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket where help should await. If not, he could have a big night offensively.
Trey Burke and Tomas Satoransky provide depth for the Wizards off the bench. Burke is averaging 4.9 points and 1.7 assists per game. He is a nifty guard who can dribble his way toward the basket and potentially create easy opportunities for his teammates. Satoransky is currently shooting 43.3 percent from the field. He will need to be accounted for when he is on the court.
Russell provided a big boost with his return from injury on Tuesday night. He gives the Lakers another playmaker that can create for himself and others. The Lakers clearly play better when he is on the court. His focus and intensity can wane at times and the Lakers can’t afford that tonight or on this road trip as a whole. He must come out ready to play
Nick Young has been playing really well as of late. He continues to shoot the ball well from deep and play solid defense. His shot-making ability opens some space for the other Lakers guards to operate on the floor. His scoring will be needed tonight against a good Wizards team.
Off the bench Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson continue to play well. Williams has been lights out with his recent play, often carrying the Lakers offense for long stretches and he always seems to step it up in the fourth quarter. With Russell back, some of the offensive burden will be lifted off him.
Clarkson continues to play well but still struggles at times with taking care of the ball. He will need to clean that up if the Lakers want to limit fast-break opportunities for opposing teams.
Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat hold down the frontcourt for the Wizards. Porter has really improved recently and is averaging 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. He is a versatile player who can play multiple positions and will be tough matchup for Luol Deng on the offensive end of the floor so Deng must be come ready to play tonight.
Morris and Gortat have played well side-by-side this season. While Gortat plays mostly down on the block, Morris has the ability to step out a knock down mid-range and three-point shots. They fit well next to each other and give Wall different options to feed when he gets in the paint.
Kelly Oubre Jr. and Jason Smith come off the bench for the Washington. Oubre Jr. is averaging 6.5 points per game, but has the ability to have good offensive performances. His size and athleticism gives him the ability to make it tough defensively on opposing players. Smith is more of a hustle and bustle player. He does all the dirty work for the Wizards and is not scared to battle in the paint.
The Lakers starting frontcourt was shaky in January; hopefully they can turn it around this month. Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng need to play better for the Lakers to be competitive in their games. They all face difficult tasks tonight so they must be ready to play.
Mozgov, especially, will need to have a big presence on the defensive end as the guards of Washington will try and penetrate for easy baskets. He is coming off a good performance against Denver, however, so hopefully he can build off that.
Julius Randle remains questionable for tonight’s game as he recovers from pneumonia, but the Lakers could surely use his energy, rebounding, and playmaking against the Wizards. Tarik Black has stepped up as a starter in his absence, but Randle brings some things that Black can’t match.
Meanwhile, Ivica Zubac has been one of the Lakers’ best players in the last few games as his soft hands and finishing ability around the basket has allowed him to increase his career high in points for three straight games. Larry Nance Jr. will also be counted on for his defense and energy.
Brandon Ingram has been struggling lately on offense so hopefully he can turn it around soon and give the Lakers some help tonight. On the bright side his defense and rebounds continue to be a silver lining.
Three Keys To Victory:
Keep John Wall In Check
If John Wall is able to run loose tonight the Lakers will be in for a tough one. Wall is at his best when he is getting others involved so it is extremely important for the Lakers to play solid defense, especially off the ball. Wall will one of Russell’s toughest defensive assignments this season, so he must be ready to play.
Washington averages 42.3 rebounds per game, which is tenth best in the league. Their frontcourt can cover a lot of ground. The Lakers big men must box their man out and hustle for the ball. If they don’t it will lead to easier offensive opportunities for the Wizards.
Take Care of the Ball
The Lakers have gotten better at preventing turnovers since the season began. They will need to do more of the same tonight. They cannot afford for the Wizards to run the floor and get easy baskets because it will put the Lakers in a tough position. It also doesn’t help that John Wall is one of the, if not, the fastest players in the league.
Los Angeles Lakers (17-34) Vs. Utah Jazz (28-20)
4:00 PM PST, February 2nd, 2017
Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Wizards Starting Lineup:
PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Otto Porter Jr.
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Marcin Gortat
Key Reserves: Trey Burke, Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr., Jason Smith
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac, Tarik Black, Brandon Ingram