Jan 24, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (center) drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns center Channing Frye (8) and center Miles Plumlee in the second half at the US Airways Center. The Wizards defeated the Suns 101-95. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Suns preview: Game Time, Key Match Up, Notes and Prediction


After a miserable west coast trip, the Washington Wizards will return to action at home tonight to face the Phoenix Suns, who are also trying to make a final push for the postseason. The game will tip off at 7:00 PM from the Verizon Center.

Key Match Up:

The Phoenix Suns are undoubtedly the most surprising team of this NBA season, but their work isn’t done yet, as they’re engaged in a tight race for a playoff spot in a very tough Western Conference. Phoenix was expected to get another high lottery pick this season, but improvement from some of their younger players and acquisitions has really boosted their play.  The Suns have multiple players on their roster that will be in the discussion for Most Improved Player of the Year, but perhaps the most improved is Eric Bledsoe, who they acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers prior to the beginning of the season. Since returning from injury earlier this month, Bledsoe has put up 20+ points in three straight games, all of which have resulted in wins for the Suns. His ability to run the floor, attack the basket and improved outside shooting has really helped Phoenix add another piece to their rebuilding puzzle.

John Wall will most likely be asked to defend Bledsoe, who’s a former college teammate of Wall’s at the University of Kentucky. Wall is coming off one of his worst games of the season, turning the ball over a season-high 8 times against the Denver Nuggets in a losing effort. Wall has had trouble guarding smaller players and Bledsoe will certainly present some challenges. Although his shooting is improved, Wall has to keep Bledsoe outside of the paint, forcing him to take tough perimeter shots. The Suns are most successful when their shooters are knocking down shots from deep, and Wall can’t allow Bledsoe to create for his teammates from penetration. The Suns are also arguably the most athletic team in the league and Wall has to take care of the ball. If Wall is careless, it’ll lead to some easy transition baskets and I don’t see the Wizards pulling out a win if they turn the ball over 20+ times like they did against Denver.

Notes:

Prediction:

Returning home from an unsuccessful road trip would help most playoff bound teams, but for the Wizards who have struggled at home all season long, I’m not sure it will make much of a difference. Washington hasn’t really taken advantage of their “home court” this season and I don’t expect that to change tonight, especially against a hungry Phoenix Suns team that’s trying to make a final push for a playoff spot.

Phoenix has won sixth of their last seven games, including wins over the Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves. With that said, they’ve also dropped games to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets recently, so they’re definitely beatable. In fact, Washington beat them in a close match up earlier this season and I wouldn’t completely discount them tonight.

It will take a lot from the Wizards for them to pull off another upset and I don’t see it happening tonight, especially without Nene. Washington’s defense has slipped recently and the Suns have too many offensive threats for me to bet against them. Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Gerald Green and the Morris twins are all candidates for the Most Improved Player of the Year award and I wouldn’t expect all of them to have off nights shooting the ball tonight.

If the Wizards can keep up with Phoenix and limit their outside shooting, I’m sure they’ll give themselves a chance, but I don’t see it happening tonight.

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