Wizards host slumping Cavs

The Wizards welcome the defending Eastern Conference champs to Capital One Arena.

Game Info

Capital One Arena | 7:00 p.m. | ESPN | 1500 AM | Buy Tickets

Probable Starters

Wizards (4-3): G – Wall, G – Beal, F – Porter Jr., F – Morris, C – Gortat 

Cavs (3-5): G – Rose, G – Smith, F – James, F – Crowder, C – Love

Wizards: Markieff Morris (Sports Hernia – Available), Otto Porter Jr. (Illness – Questionable), Sheldon Mac (Achilles – Out)

Cavs: Isaiah Thomas (Hip – Out), Iman Shumpert (Knee – Out), Tristan Thompson (Calf – Out)

Storylines

Two Top Teams Looking to Bounce Back

There’s a very good chance that when mid April rolls around, the two teams playing tonight will be somewhere atop the Eastern Conference standings. But, two weeks into the season, and both teams have yet to hit their full stride, although the Wizards have certainly played at a much higher level than Cleveland and enter with a winning record. While the Wiz are coming off a disappointing home loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night, the Cavs have lost four games in a row, with three of those four losses coming against teams that missed the playoffs last year and the last two coming on their home floor. The Cavs may be banged up and without some of their key players, but they still have a healthy LeBron James and losing four in a row with him on the floor can certainly be described as uncharacteristic.

Despite their recent slide, when the Cavs come to town, no team will ever take them lightly, something echoed by both the Wizards’ players and head coach Scott Brooks after Thursday’s practice. Until they get knocked out of the playoffs, the Cavs are still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference and the Wizards know they can make a statement with a bounce back win tonight.

The last time these two teams met in D.C., they played one of the best regular season games in history, a 140-135 overtime classic, which unfortunately the Wizards wound up on the wrong side. The Wiz thought they had the game won in regulation, but a James turnaround 3-point bank shot beat the buzzer and sent the game to overtime. The road team won all three games last year, as the Wizards won twice in Cleveland to win the season series, 2-1.

Keef Back

The Wizards did get good news on Keef Morris (sports hernia) and he’ll make his season debut tonight after missing all of training camp, preseason, and the first seven games of the regular season. He had surgery in September, but worked hard to get back on the court and it will be a welcoming sight to see him in uniform tonight. Brooks did say that Morris would start, but he’ll probably be limited to somewhere around 16 minutes as the team uses caution with this being his first game back. Morris will get the nod at the PF spot which will slide Otto Porter Jr. down to his natural three position and move Kelly Oubre Jr. to his reserve role. Last season, Morris was the team’s third leading scorer behind John Wall and Bradley Beal and he’ll instantly bring a new level of toughness to the Wizards’ frontcourt. It may take him a few games to get back to 100 percent and get into game shape, but the Wizards are a much more dangerous team with him on the court, and his teammates will likely get a little boost seeing him out there again.

Cavs Down Key Pieces

If there ever was a time to play the Cavs, this may be it, as they’ll be missing a couple of their most valuable players, including All-NBA guard Isaiah Thomas. When they traded Kyrie Irving this offseason, they knew Thomas would miss some time, but they are now down Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson, which will put pressure on some of their other role guys to step up.

Cleveland made a handful of changes to last year’s team and added a bunch of veterans to their roster as they look to get back to a fourth straight NBA Finals. Jae Crowder, who was also in the Irving deal, will likely move back into the starting lineup with Thompson out, with Dwyane Wade, Jeff Green, and Kyle Korver all playing reserve roles.

The Cavs have had trouble stopping teams on this current four-game losing streak, averaging over 118 points against, and their age and lack of team speed has been exploited. The Wizards will want to continue this trend and turn this game into a track meet, getting up and down the court to get easy buckets in transition.

The Wizards will head to Toronto this weekend and take on the Raptors on Sunday evening (6 p.m.)

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