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


Time: 7 p.m. MST

TV: FSA

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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).

  • Foreveris2long

    Good stuff Zimm.

  • EBJM

    At least Green will only have to guard Beal for 30 mintes max. Beal is still on a minute restriction that caused him to miss the entire OT against Boston.

    Suns games are so predictable now. If they play like they did against the Pacers, hitting every jump shot they take they can beat any team on any given night.

    I’m looking at a second blow-out. Wizards simply do not have the talent or depth to keep up.

    It will probably be Frye’s turn to have a big night. Nene is a bit too big to be chasing Frye off the three-point line.

  • CART jeff

    I will be curious to see Green’s attitude/body language. Is he mentally tough, does he have the drive? Or is he just satisfied with a great game on ESPN against his former team. This game will tell a lot. He has great physical potential and skill, but is he a winner?

  • EBJM

    Green is the key to the Suns still making the playoffs. I think he realizes that a “perfect storm” has arrived at the perfect moment of his career. He looked just as good Paul George and forced Lance Stephenson to the bench.

    It was perhaps his best overall performance of his career considering it came against the top team in the NBA.

    If continues to drive to the hoop like he did against the Pacers, the Suns are a bit better with a 6′-8″ athletic freak like Green paired up with maybe an All-Star Dragic.

    Barbosa and Ish are doing just fine replacing Green with the 2nd unit.

  • ShanMan

    Gortat: 12ppg/8.8rpg/1.6bpg/.521 FG%

    Plumlee: 9.7ppg/8.7ppg/1.6bpg/.510 FG%

    Gortat: $7,727,280
    Plumlee: $1,121,520

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    If you’re doing this ^^^ also note Plumlee plays like five minutes per game less than Gortat.

  • ShanMan

    ^^^

    True that Zimmerman.

  • shawn

    Blow out!!! Wizards over the suns!!

  • http://none Go Phx

    We’re making the playoffs. That’s not even a debate. Whether we win a round or two is up to our bench but mostly Markieff Morris.

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