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Preview: Washington Wizards (20-21) vs. Phoenix Suns (24-17)

Time: 7 p.m. MST


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Back-to-back, the Phoenix Suns get a glimpse of what once was. The past they’ll be reminded of this week is not the prettiest of pictures, and it’s probably safe to say that not only is the future looking brighter, but so is the present.

Wednesday, it was Luis Scola making little impact for an Indiana Pacers team that allowed Phoenix’s best offensive performance of the year. On Friday, center Marcin Gortat and the Washington Wizards visit U.S. Airways Center as the Suns aim for a 4-1 record in their five-game homestand.

Washington, which is coming off a painful overtime loss to a Boston Celtics team without Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, visits with a 20-21 record and don’t worry: the Wizards are still sixth in the Eastern Conference standings, meaning another loss won’t do much to threaten Phoenix earning its 2014 first-round draft choice that’s protected through the 12th pick.

The Wizards have been hot-and-cold this season. They have John Wall and Bradley Beal making up a dangerous backcourt, and Wall had fine success against Phoenix last season, driving and kicking out to, especially, Martell Webster for corner threes.

Wall is also the mystery. He recorded a triple-double against the Celtics but chucked up 29 shots. Meanwhile, the Wizards allowed Jeff Green to pump in 39 points and rookie point guard Phil Pressey to score a career-best 20 — point guard defense has seemingly been a weak-spot for the Wizards of late, which is good news if you’re Goran Dragic or Leandro Barbosa.

By the numbers, Washington has actually been a decent enough defensive squad this season, but, sometimes you just don’t know which team you’re going to get.

What should we be looking for as the Wizards take on the Suns?

Can the Wizards defend the three?

This is especially pertinent regarding Channing Frye. Washington will go with Gortat and Nene in the post to start the game, and it’s a good bet the Suns will do what the Suns do. They’re going to put those guys into pick-and-rolls and make them stop Dragic’s drives or Frye from outside. Indiana knew it was coming on Wednesday but it was almost as if the Pacers didn’t understand what contesting Frye means — they didn’t know because they hadn’t seen him in more than a year.

David West’s “contests” didn’t even include a hand above Frye’s shoulder, so you know how that went the rest of the night.

Once the lineup rotations get into full swing, the Suns could find some more success with Frye or Markieff Morris stretching the floor at the center spot. The same can be said about how well the Wiz defend Gerald Green.

Will the bench unit continue to produce?

Even the harshest critics of the Morris twins (this guy) can’t duck the truth. Sometimes, the Morrii play very well, and when they do, the Suns are hard to stop. It’s true against the Wizards, who have a short bench unit that includes Trevor Booker, Webster and not much else. Markieff Morris has scored 20-plus points in three of his last four games, and that alone might win the bench scoring for the Suns.

Marcus Morris, meanwhile, has added double-digit scoring in three of his last five.

Ish Smith has only gained steam as a regular rotation player. If anything, he’s become a relied-upon change-up point guard that Hornacek has used especially in second halves when things begin to slip. Smith was the key in turning the pace back in Phoenix’s favor against Indiana.

And where does Alex Len fit into all of this? He was held out until garbage time on Wednesday as Hornacek went with a more reliable rotation. Yet, Len seemingly found a role as a true backup center. It becomes a matter of whether Hornacek will continue to create mismatches at the center spot against opposing benches, or roll with his growing youngster.

Either way, two different bench units have closed out the last two games for the Suns. Will that happen again?

What’s the over/under on amazing Marcin Gortat things?

We’re going to say 9.5 when we combine all of the following: Gortat’s classic hands on head in frustration, Gortat getting dunked on, awesome Gortat quotes (we’re already at two considering two quotes from this Washington Post story).

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