No. 2 – Can the Washington Wizards slow down Nikola Vucevic?
The Washington Wizards face another daunting task with big-man Nikola Vucevic coming to town. Last season, he tortured Washington from almost every area on the court. In his three matchups against the Wizards, Vucevic averaged 26.3 points and 12.7 rebounds. He shot a blistering 50.0 percent from behind the arc on 5.3 attempts per game and 57.4 percent from the field overall. Washington had fits trying to slow down Vucevic because of his ability to not only stretch the floor (34 percent from three last year) but also score on the block with his amazing footwork.
Though not as physically dominant, he presents a lot of the same problems that Joel Embiid did in game one. The Wizards struggled mightily to contain Embiid in the first game. In the Wizard’s 113-107 loss to the Sixers, Embiid finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block in 35 minutes of play. His presence down low played a big factor down the stretch as he scored 15 of his 29 points in the last 12 minutes to help lead Philly to the comeback win. The two-time All-NBA and All-Defensive team player has a little more in his arsenal than Vucevic, but they’re both still All-Star centers in this league; therefore, they deserve the utmost respect.
Washington must make it a point of emphasis to limit Vucevic as much as possible and force the other players on the Magic to beat them. Thomas Bryant will start off the game defending Vucevic, but it’ll be a collective effort keeping him in check. Bryant has grown as a defender but he’s far from elite on that end of the floor, so he’ll need as much help as possible. The Wizards have to show Vucevic different looks throughout the game to prevent him from getting comfortable early. Traps and double teams in the post are a great strategy to get the ball out of his hands, and something we saw the Wizards do vs. Embiid. The fewer touches Vucevic gets, the better chance the Wizards have of coming out victorious.