The Wizards haven’t secured a playoff spot just yet, but the next few games will set them up for a postseason-type atmosphere as they face several teams in contention. The Phoenix Suns are first up and they are currently ninth in the Western Conference, a half-game behind both Memphis and Dallas and for the final two playoff spots.
“They’re not playing for anything more than we’re playing for,” said Coach Randy Wittman, whose team enters Wednesday’s action 1½ games behind Brooklyn for the fifth seed and 2½ games ahead of Charlotte. “They are in the same boat we’re in. Playing for something, trying to stay alive…We’ve got to win this game with defensive effort more so than we’re about scoring.”
Charlotte and Brooklyn square off in a game that should be of interest to the Wizards as they continue to chase homecourt advantage in the first round and try to avoid seventh place – and a possible first round matchup against Miami or Indiana.
The Wizards (36-34) are looking to sweep the season series against the Suns for the second year in a row. They defeated the Suns, 101-95, at US Airways Center on Jan. 24 as Trevor Ariza scored a team-high 23 points and Bradley Beal made a go-ahead three-pointer late in the fourth quarter.
Phoenix didn’t have guard Eric Bledsoe in the last meeting but he returned this month as the team has started to heat up. The Suns (42-29) have won four in row and six of seven after Bledsoe returned from a meniscus tear in his right knee. With Bledsoe in the starting backcourt with Goran Dragic, the Suns are 18-7.
“We know we got a tough team that we beat in Phoenix and they’re playing great right now, especially Bledsoe coming back,” said John Wall. “They got a strong bench with Gerald Green and two twins and you still got Dragic and those guys. Every game is important to them also. We know we got a tough stretch.”
Marcin Gortat is looking to beat his former team again but he knows that the second time will likely be more difficult with the Suns at full strength. “They have Bledsoe back, they still dangerous. They have a great coaching staff and a great defensive coordinator, one of the best in the league, if not the best. It’s going to be a huge test,” Gortat said. “It’s going to be a huge test for our guards, they’ve got to contain Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe and then you have Gerald Green coming off the bench who has been playing very well. P.J. Tucker who is a pitbull on the boards and basically trying to destroy anybody who is in his way. You just got to do whatever it takes to win the games. It’s going to be a huge test. A huge, huge test.”
Wall echoed his coach in saying that the Wizards will have to win the game on the defensive end. “Just play the same way we played with the same type of energy we played with in Phoenix,” Wall said. “What we’re trying to do is fight for a better playoff seed and stay in the playoffs. The main thing is us going out there and try to win, because we know how hungry they are to get that last spot.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet. Radio: WJFK-106.7 MF, WFED-1500 AM).
Here’s some reading to help you get ready for the game: