The Wizards (3-2) have lost three straight after a 120-117 setback at Golden State on Friday night, squandering an 18-point, third-quarter lead. Washington may also be without starting shooting guard Bradley Beal, who was ejected with Warriors swingman Draymond Green for getting into a scuffle and is waiting to see if the league will hand down any discipline action to both of them.
John Wall missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds for the second straight game and finished with 20 points and 14 assists. Otto Porter picked up the scoring slack after Beal was tossed to score 29 points and made 7 of 9 from 3-point range.
Washington has yet to hold an opponent under 100 points, though the Los Angeles Lakers needed overtime to crack the century mark Wednesday night. The Wizards are also struggling along the interior defensively, ranking tied for 23rd in average second-chance points allowed (15.2) and 25th in average points in the paint allowed (49.6).
Sacramento (1-4) has dropped three straight after former center DeMarcus Cousins returned to New Orleans on Friday night and dropped 41 points, 23 rebounds and six assists on the Kings to power the Pelicans to a 114-106 victory. Rookie De’Aaron Fox had 14 points to lead seven players in double figures as Sacramento’s offense faltered in the second half after scoring 70 points in the opening two quarters.
Fox leads the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game while coming off the bench, and he’s also the team leader in shots attempted (70) and assists (25) despite being third in minutes. Sacramento’s reserves are outscoring the starting five, averaging 49.8 points compared to the starters putting up 48.8 per contest.
Three keys to the game
Points for Porter - The third overall pick in the 2013 draft, Porter is finally scoring at an elite level and enters this game averaging 19.2 points. He's recorded two of the five highest-scoring games of his career in the first five games of this season and the seven 3-pointers Friday night were a career high. If Beal is unavailable, look for Wall to make it a point to find Porter on offense.
More perimeter looks for Sacramento - The Kings are fourth in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage (37.8) but 28th in attempts (111) through games played Friday, ahead of only San Antonio and New York. That early marksmanship is more impressive considering Buddy Hield, who hit at a 39.1 percent clip from beyond the arc in 2016/17, is just 6 for 24. Sacramento doesn't appear to have an offensive identity just yet because it looks like everyone can do a bit of everything, but getting Hield on track has to be a priority.
Defending the interior for the Wizards - Part of every stat pack gets slightly skewed after playing Golden State, but Washington has struggled to keep teams out of the paint this entire trip. The Wizards have been outscored 158-124 in the paint over the last three games after the Warriors outscored them 52-38. Washington needs Marcin Gortat to be a presence down low and at the very least, help Kelly Oubre Jr. since the Kings likely will make Zach Randolph their first option in the low post.
Matchup to watch
Wizards SF Otto Porter vs. Kings SF Justin Jackson - Note that this will only be the starting matchup because the Kings have the ability to throw multiple bodies to slow down Porter, including Garrett Temple, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Vince Carter.
Porter's efficiency is off the charts as he's accounted for 26.4 percent of Washington's baskets despite having a usage rate of only 18.4 percent. He's also been performing well at both ends of the court and already has a pair of double-doubles. It may take this small army of wing players to slow down Porter, who is enjoying the best five-game stretch of his career.
Washington Wizards projected starting lineup
PG - John Wall | SG - Bradley Beal or Jodie Meeks | C - Marcin Gortat | SF - Otto Porter | PF - Kelly Oubre Jr.
Sacramento Kings projected starting lineup
PG - George Hill | SG - Buddy Hield | C - Willie Cauley-Stein | SF - Justin Jackson | PF - Zach Randolph
As if there weren't enough reasons to add Porter to your fantasy teams, he's averaged 17.7 points on 67.7 percent shooting (21 for 31) in his last three games against Sacramento, making 8 of 14 from 3-point range.
On Sacramento's side, George Hill has averaged 19.8 points, 6.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds in his last six games against Washington. Hill has shot 48.5 percent in those games and made 13 of 37 from beyond the arc.
There's yet to be a line established on this game pending the availability of Beal, but the over has been a consistently strong play for both teams individually and when playing each other. The over is 6-1 in Washington's last seven games against Pacific Division opponents and 10-3 in Sacramento's last 13 contests versus Eastern Conference teams.
Lastly, the over has hit eight times in the last 10 games between the teams in Sacramento. The Kings have gone over 220 points in their last two games, and the Wizards have done so three times in their five contests, so if the over/under comes in closer to 220 than 225, this is where the good play could be.
In a perfect world, the Wizards would have beaten both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Warriors and entered this game with a chance to sweep this road trip and improve to 6-0. Instead, their inability to close out games has left the Wizards needing a win to head back east in a positive frame of mind with a split.
Washington proved it could score without Beal, but it still hasn't shown it can defend with or without him. The Kings have plenty of size to exploit a soft interior Wizards defense, but they also don't have the offensive chemistry yet; roles aren't well-defined, the starting five is struggling to put up points. Lastly, Sacramento is also struggling on defense.
Wall may have to take fewer shots on the perimeter to make sure Porter's scoring surge can continue, and the Wizards also can also compensate for Beal's potential absence in the form of backup guard Jodie Meeks. Washington has been fortunate to play every other day on this road trip, so fatigue shouldn't be a factor. Expect the Wizards to come out focused and run by the Kings to a 119-108 victory.
This game will be televised locally on NBCSports California and NBCSports Washington. Tip-off time is 6 pm ET.
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