Opponent: Washington Wizards
Starting Lineup: Isaiah Thomas-Bradley Beal-Isaac Bonga-Rui Hachimura-Thomas Bryant
Second Unit: Ish Smith-Troy Brown-Davis Bertans-Moritz Wagner
Leading Scorer: Beal (26.5 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Bryant (9.7 RPG)
Leading Assists: Thomas (7 APG)
Biggest Challenge: Injuries (again)
A loss to the Charlotte Hornets is never a good thing to have on a resume, especially when the Indiana Pacers held a major fourth quarter lead. But playing without Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, while Goga Bitadze and T.J. Leaf got into major foul trouble, is not a recipe for victory against any opponent. Unfortunately, the injury report hasn’t gotten any better. In fact, it’s gotten worse. Jeremy Lamb is now listed as doubtful for the game with a sprained left ankle. Sabonis and Turner are still questionable. Just as last night, one of them playing will help in a major way. Bryant is arguably the Wizards’ second-best player, so having one of them to bang with him would help a victory. But it’s not looking good.
Biggest Advantage: Wing defense
Beal operates as the team’s primary playmaker and Bryant is a very solid big man. Thomas has looked pretty good as a playmaker since coming back from injury. But what about on the wing? Bertans can shoot it. Hachimura has a lot of potential as a rookie. But who do they have to guard T.J. Warren? The bucket-getting wing should be able to get to the basket at will and create his own shot off the dribble at ease against their below-average wing defenders.
The X-Factor: Beal/Malcolm Brogdon matchup
This game will likely come down to the matchup between the teams’ best players, Brogdon and Beal, who will likely match up with each other a decent amount. The offense runs through both guys. Who is going to come out on top? Brogdon’s length can disrupt Beal, but he has also struggled against guys as quick as him. Can Brogdon capitalize on the slight size advantage he has over Beal? This matchup will be fun to watch.
The Wizards, like the Hornets, are not a very good NBA team. Beal is awesome, and possibly one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Bryant is also an emerging centerpiece as a big man, along with Hachimura on the wing. They simply play too many guys who should not be getting consistent minutes in an NBA rotation. However, the Pacers are also in the same situation with all the injuries in place. This game is going to come down to three factors: the availability of Turner and Sabonis, the Brogdon/Beal matchup and how effective Warren can be offensively against below-average wing defenders.