Mon, 12 Apr 2021

Wizards look to stay hot against T-Wolves

Field Level Media
27 Feb 2021, 07:40 GMT+10

One team that's made a rapid move up the standings and another that would love to do the same hook up Saturday night when the Minnesota Timberwolves visit the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards shocked NBA observers with three wins in four games on a tough Western swing, which came in the wake of three straight triumphs at home.

A 6-17 club with the worst record in the Eastern Conference just two weeks ago, the Wizards will be chasing a seventh win in their past eight games when they begin a stretch of eight of 10 at home bridging the All-Star break.

Washington coach Scott Brooks realizes he and his once-COVID-ravaged squad could be on the verge of something special.

"There's times where we just could have said, 'I just want this to end. Can we just fast-forward to the 2021-22 season?'" he said this week. "But we didn't. We chipped away."

The keys to the turnaround have been an All-Star guard and a former two-time All-Star Game Most Valuable Player who has been playing like one.

Bradley Beal has been an offensive terror the past seven games, averaging 32.6 points while shooting 52.6 percent. He's also found time for 5.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.

Beal no doubt has benefited from the improved play of a healthy Russell Westbrook, whose past seven outings have featured four triple-doubles and nearly three others. He missed a fifth and sixth triple-double by one rebound, and another by one assist.

In fact the last time the Wizards lost at home -- Feb. 12 against New York -- Westbrook had 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, meaning he's three rebounds and one assist from a legendary eight-game streak of triple-doubles.

Beal and Westbrook haven't been a two-man team during the upturn. Rui Hachimura averaged 17.3 points and Robin Lopez 11.0 in Washington's three wins on the Western trip, while Raul Neto joined in on the fun in the past two games, averaging 13.0 points.

Washington's rise has left Minnesota without its chief rival for the worst record in the league. The Timberwolves have lost six in a row and 10 of 11.

At 7-26, Minnesota was joined only by Detroit (9-23 entering Friday) as single-digit win teams as they wrap up a four-game trip.

There have been signs of encouragement for the Timberwolves in recent games. Eleven of their past 12 losses have been by eight or fewer points, with two going to overtime, including Wednesday's 133-126 effort at Chicago.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points in the loss to the Bulls, while Malik Beasley went for a team-high 25 in his final game before getting a 12-game suspension due to a guilty plea following a September arrest for making violent threats toward a family.

New coach Chris Finch will have another lineup decision to make after using veteran Ricky Rubio in place of injured D'Angelo Russell in recent games.

"Really good offensive mind, fast-paced, a lot of 3s," Rubio said of Finch's style, before warning, "It takes time."

The Wizards and Timberwolves will be wrapping up their season series, with Washington having recorded a 130-109 road win on New Year's Day. Beal had 31 points in the win, which was the Wizards' first of the season after five opening losses.

--Field Level Media

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