Never at a loss for words, the father of the No. 2 overall pick told the website BallisLife on Monday that the Wizards “should beware cause Lonzo ain’t losing again. Not in the same week!”
This prompted a Twitter response from Wizards center Marcin Gortat that read, “man…. pleaseeeeee!!! @JohnWall will torture him for 48min” followed by the crying-while-laughing emoji.
War of words aside, Ball vs. Wall is the primary draw of this contest. The rookie point guard has struggled to find his shot through the first three games of his NBA career, but other facets of his game have been front and center as he’s averaged 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists for the Lakers (1-2).
Ball finished two rebounds short of a triple-double in Sunday night’s 119-112 home loss to New Orleans in which Los Angeles rallied from a 20-point third-quarter deficit to take a five-point lead with less than six minutes to play before faltering down the stretch. Ball, who played the final 7:05, missed both his shots and grabbed one offensive rebound in that stretch as the Lakers were outscored 21-11.
At 3-0, Washington is the lone unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference after opening its four-game road trip with a 109-104 victory at Denver on Monday night. Wall shook off a 3-for-13 shooting night to finish with 19 points and 12 assists, while Otto Porter chipped in 17 points and 10 rebounds.
There was also some controversy with 32 seconds left when Wizards coach Scottie Brooks was elbowed by Nuggets center Nikola Jokic as he was walking to his bench following a timeout. Jokic was called for a technical foul and Bradley Beal hit the free throw awarded before adding a layup to give Washington an insurmountable five-point lead.
Three Keys to the Game
Washington's lack of boxing out - The Wizards have one of the smaller starting frontcourts in the league in the 6-foot-8 Porter, the 6'7" Oubre and the 6'11" Gortat. Though they are narrowly out-rebounding their opponents overall, they are giving up an alarming amount of second-chance points, and the 18.7 per game yielded is second-worst in the league. Los Angeles, though, have been out-rebounded by 6.3 per game and scored only 24 second-chance points through their first three games, so this could end up being a wash.
Kuzma the closer - Rookie Kyle Kuzma is not a starter, but he's a closer. He's been in the final five for Lakers coach Luke Walton the last two games, and he's 13 of 20 from the field in those contests while scoring 35 points. The 6'9" forward does a little bit of everything out there for the Lakers and he could cause matchup problems on the wing.
Make your free throws - Through three games for both teams, the Wizards have made more free throws (85) than the Lakers have attempted (76). Washington also ranks fifth in the NBA in free throw percentage (84.2), while Los Angeles is one of five teams not converting at least 70 percent of their attempts. Wall and Bradley Beal have helped the Wizards outscore opponents by nearly 13 points per game at the foul line, so it would suit the Lakers to cut off the penetration lanes and get to the basket themselves.
Matchup to Watch
John Wall vs. Lonzo Ball - While Wall won't carry the same fury that Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley did in hounding Ball all over the court in his welcome to the NBA, there's no doubt he will be another player who has the Lakers rookie in his crosshairs based on the non-stop trash talking LaVar Ball has done since the youngster left UCLA for the pros. The challenge for Ball will be staying in front of Wall, who is arguably the fastest end-to-end point guard in the NBA and prevent him from leading the Wizards in transition. On offense, the 20-year-old may need to be more of a pure point guard and facilitate the offense first and look for his shot second unless he finds success early driving the lane.
Washington Wizards Projected Starting Lineup
PG - John Wall | SG - Bradley Beal | C - Marcin Gortat | SF - Kelly Oubre, Jr. | PF - Otto Porter
Los Angeles Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG - Lonzo Ball | SG - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | C - Brook Lopez | SF - Brandon Ingram | PF - Larry Nance, Jr.
Wall is a must-play in any fantasy lineup given his domination of the Lakers. He's averaged 27.1 points and 13.0 assists while shooting 52.0 percent in his last nine games against them, helping Washington win eight of them.
A player to consider when rounding out Daily Fantasy Site teams would be Gortat. The Wizards center is averaging 15.3 points while shooting 64.6 percent in his last eight games versus the Lakers while also getting 10.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.
While the Wizards have no spectacular recent numbers against the spread - they are 1-3-1 in their last five versus Pacific Division teams and 2-5 in their last seven against Western Conference teams - they are 6-1 against the number in their last seven road games against the Lakers. The over/under of 231 seems like a lot until you realize: the Wizards average 114.0 points, the Lakers have scored 244 in their last two games and both teams have yet to hold an opponent under the century mark. Wall and Beal should continue their parade to the foul line against the Lakers' backcourt, and the game will be ragged enough where both teams find plenty of easy buckets.
The Wizards haven't opened a season 4-0 since 1978-79, when Elvin Hayes helped them return to the NBA Finals before being denied a second straight title by the Seattle SuperSonics. While it's too early to call this edition championship-caliber, it's clear everyone's roles are well-defined: all five starters average in double figures, and Brooks has an established nine-man rotation. That free throw discrepancy the Wizards create offsets the fact they rank 27th in effective defensive field goal percentage (54.2) because opponents have made 40.7 percent of their 3-pointers. That cohesion, especially on offense, will put Washington over the hump in this game against a young Lakers squad still learning their way. Look for the Wizards to pull away for a 125-112 victory.
This game will be televised nationally on ESPN and locally on Spectrum SportsNet and NBC Sports Washington. Tip-off is 10:30pm ET.
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