Two teams sitting in ninth place in their respective conferences hope to take a step forward at the other’s expense when the Washington Wizards visit the Golden State Warriors on Monday night in San Francisco.
The game is a rematch of a 127-118 Warriors road win on Jan. 16, but much has changed in the four weeks since.
The Wizards were without injured Bradley Beal that day, and were helped by reserve Rui Hachimura, who finished with 16 points.
The Warriors saw enough of Hachimura on Saturday night, when he helped his new team — the Los Angeles Lakers — record an important 109-103 win in San Francisco. He had two late baskets that proved to be key and, coincidentally, scored 16 points in the victory.
Hachimura was dealt late last month to the Lakers for Kendrick Nunn, who has helped Washington win its last two games. He contributed six points and four rebounds off the bench in just 11 minutes in a 118-104 triumph over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, then had 10 points and six assists in increased minutes (22) in a 127-113 homestand-closing victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.
The Wizards have been streaky this season. The last time they opened a two-game winning streak, it grew into a six-game run last month. But in between those six wins and the current two-game streak, they dropped three straight.
“I mean, we’ve gotta win games, plain and simple. We’ve gotta just figure it out. We’ve been incredibly consistent at being inconsistent this year,” Kyle Kuzma said. “It’s definitely been tough with some injuries and guys coming in and coming out. We’re trying to figure out playing with different lineups and different groups. That’s the NBA, it’s not an excuse because all 30 teams go through that.”
The poster boy for the ins-and-outs has been Beal, who has missed five, six, five, three and two straight games at different points of the season. But he’s healthy now, having had a 17-point, 10-assist double-double in the Charlotte win before going for 32 points against Indiana.
With Beal watching, Stephen Curry was the star of the show in the Warriors’ earlier visit to Washington, bombing in 41 points. But Curry has missed the last three games with a left leg injury that’s expected to keep him out through the All-Star break, and perhaps longer.
Golden State also finds itself distracted by the status of Gary Payton II, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Portland. A physical examination required to complete the deal reportedly revealed internal issues possibly related to core-muscles surgery he had in the offseason.
According to reports Sunday night, the Warriors will go through with the trade and acquire Payton, but what impact the injury will have on his playing time remains unknown.
With Curry missing and Payton not around, the Warriors went out and suffered Saturday’s loss to the Lakers, with Klay Thompson’s 3-for-13 night on 3-pointers mirroring the team’s 12-for-44 performance from deep.
With the Wizards’ visit and a trip to Los Angeles to face the Clippers standing between his .500 team and an eight-day break, Warriors coach Steve Kerr found himself counting the days after Saturday’s defeat.
“I think our guys are frustrated,” he insisted. “We’ve had so many close losses and we’re right up against the All-Star break. I think our guys, like everybody around the league, they need a break. We just haven’t been able to string together enough wins to kind of create a little momentum and some separation in the standings.”
–Field Level Media