LOS ANGELES — It will not just be the Washington Wizards who roll into the Staples Center for a Saturday afternoon matinee, the Bradley Beal show is also coming to Los Angeles.
The Wizards have won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 15 and Beal’s offensive surge has marked the occasion. The sharp-shooting guard scored 34 points in a Wizards’ victory on Thursday at Phoenix and poured in 51 during a victory Tuesday at Portland.
It remains to be seen what Beal might be able to do against an undermanned Clippers’ squad, which is expected to use Austin Rivers’ backcourt defense to alter the Wizards’ current winning formula. But the Clippers will need more than just defense to get the job done.
It is closing in on two weeks since forward Blake Griffin was sidelined with a sprained left knee and the Clippers have not won since. The losing streak is now at four after the most recent stumble Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Los Angeles is also without guards Milos Teodosic (foot) and Patrick Beverley (out for the season after knee surgery). Forward Danilo Gallinari did return Wednesday after missing 13 games with a strained hip but struggled offensively, going 2-of-13 from the field and 1-of-5 from 3-point range.
“If it was just Blake, we’d be OK, but you miss (Gallinari), Milos, Patrick Beverley … Patrick Beverley defensively is probably what we miss the most,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said at practice Friday. “With Blake and (Gallinari) together to start the season, we could switch everything defensively. Now, you can’t do that.”
The Wizards are sure to test the limits of what they can get away with on offense. Los Angeles has given up an average of 114.8 points per game in their four defeats without Griffin. Combine that with a relentless defense and the Clippers could have a long day ahead of them.
Washington figures to step on the gas early and often to better resemble the approach they displayed in Portland and Phoenix. It would further distance themselves from a dismal defeat at Utah on Monday when they scored just 69 points (matching the NBA season low) and shot just 28.7 percent from the field.
That clunker is a distance memory, though, as the Wizards head into Saturday’s game with complete confidence.
“Not to take nothing away from these teams, but you’ve got to look at the teams that we beat,” Wizards forward Markieff Morris said about the two-game win streak, according to the Washington Post. “(Thursday) we won a game without their best player (Devin Booker). We got a Clippers team that’s got a bunch of players hurt. A Brooklyn team (on Tuesday) that’s middle of the pack. So those are games, that in all honesty, we’re supposed to win.”
The Clippers used to sound the same way, back when the season was in its infancy. But Teodosic went down first with a plantar faciitis injury during the home opener. Nobody knew at the time what was about to come.
Teodosic was officially listed as “doubtful” for Saturday’s game. But that’s an upgrade from the status of “out” the Clippers had been submitting. The guard could return to action next week.
Wizards star point guard John Wall also looks doubtful for Saturday’s game. He has missed the last two weeks with a left knee injury and like Teodosic, isn’t likely to return until next week. Wizards forward/center Jason Smith remains day to day with his own knee injury, while guard Sheldon Mac remains out indefinitely with a leg injury.
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