WASHINGTON WIZARDS (3-0)
at GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (2-2)
Tip-off: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Line: N/A, Total: N/A
The Wizards get an early road test when they take on the Warriors in the Bay on Friday.Other than, of course, the Boston Celtics, perhaps no team experienced a greater contextual shift for their season when Gordon Hayward went down with an injury than the Washington Wizards. Their had already been whispers that the Wizards might present the Eastern Conference's greatest challenge to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and after the star Celtics forward broke his leg, the loud-mouthed Wizards' season will be considered a disappoint if they fall anywhere short of the conference finals. With a Friday night game at Oracle Arena this weekend, Washington will be getting perhaps the toughest game on its schedule—at Golden State—out of the way just over a week into the season. The Warriors, who many in the preseason had slotted for 70 wins, started a surprising 1-2 with losses to Houston and Memphis. They'll be looking to shut down the Wizards' explosive playmakers and make a statement in a game televised on NBATV.
PG John Wall makes everything go for Washington, having led the team in scoring and assists for the past several seasons. While he didn't shoot particularly well in two early games this season (10-28 vs PHI; 3-13 at DEN), he still finished with 28 and 19 points in those respective contests, thanks to a more aggressive approach to getting to the foul line than he has shown in the past. Time will tell if he continues with this tactic, but it is something that has certainly paid dividends for similarly ball-dominant players like James Harden over the years. Wall didn't score very effectively in two games against Golden State last season, averaging 13.5 PPG in them. In the first one, though, a 112-108 win, he dished out 19 assists. In the other, a 139-115 defeat, he had 11 assists with no turnovers. SG Bradley Beal was the Wizards' leading scorer in both of those games, and he remains option 1B in the Washington offense. He and SF Otto Porter will need to hit some three-pointers if Washington wants to pull off the upset this weekend. SF Kelly Oubre and SF Jodie Meeks have also attempted their fair share of threes on the young season. Some believe Oubre is due for a breakout this season, and an explosion against Golden State would make for a great start. C Marcin Gortat will go to war with the Warriors bigs, and the Wizards will be in good shape if he can come out on top in those matchups. Washington could, however, be a bit gassed
The defeat to Washington last year was a game to forget for the Warriors, and not just because it was one of the few losses they sustained on the season. SF Kevin Durant went down with an injury less than two minutes into the game, and it kept him out for significant time down the stretch run of the regular season. He still wasn't back on the court when Golden State played the Wizards again, but by that time the team had adjusted to his absence and made easy work of the Wizards. PG Stephen Curry had 42 points on blistering 9-of-14 three-point shooting, and PF Draymond Green had a triple-double with 13 points, 11 boards and 11 assists. While Green won't guard Gortat directly, keep an eye on the two when they cross paths—they're two of the mouthiest players in the NBA. Curry and Wall, meanwhile, both love to test themselves against the best guards in the league, and it figures to be a back-and-forth slugfest between the PGs on Friday. This will be Durant's first real game as a Warrior against the Wizards, and the opposition will have to find a way to contain him. Since it's a feat seldom achieved by any team, they're unlikely to be able to do so. Plus there's SG Klay Thompson, who, as the Warriors' fourth fiddle, is still a better version than Beal. Both SG Nick Young and C JaVale McGee are ex-Wizards, a dynamic that could add further spice to this contest.