Coming off their most impressive win of the season, the Wizards will look to build on some newfound defense in Miami when they take on the Heat.
Undermanned, the Wizards took on the Philadelphia 76ers and won. The two most important takeaways from the 76ers game will again be key again against the Heat, and those were 1) minimizing turnovers, and 2) winning on the offensive glass. Despite the size disadvantage the Wizards faced, they came down with five more offensive rebounds than the 76ers and forced them into 21 turnovers while only committing 11 of their own.
The Heat are a well-rounded team that rank inside the top-10 in defensive rating. Excluding the 76ers game, the Wizards have struggled mightily when facing top defensive teams. When teams are able to slow their offense down, the Wizards don’t have a defensive answer on the other side of the ball, and teams can easily outscore them. The Wizards’ last four losses came against the Magic, Clippers, Lakers, and the Nuggets, who rank 11th, seventh, fifth and first in defensive rating, respectively.
Stopping Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler is always a threat. He’s scoring 26.6 points over his last three games and the Wizards are going to need to find a way to slow him down. Inserting Isaac Bonga back into the starting lineup has given the Wizards a bit more of a defensive identity. He was able to grab two steals and create problems for the 76ers offensively in less than 20 minutes of play on Thursday night. He’ll be the Wizards best option against Butler, but he’ll likely play less than half the game as we’ll need offense.
Rui is rolling
Rui Hachimura has scored in double digits in four games in a row and is averaging 22 points over that stretch. The rookie has earned himself more minutes, hitting the 30-minute mark in four of his last five, and topping 40 minutes for the first time in his career on Thursday night. He’s shooting the ball, driving confidently, and his shot is falling at a 54% clip over his four-game hot streak. He’s also making a difference on the boards grabbing at least six rebounds in his last five games. Rui is becoming a consistent second option in that starting lineup and is able to take a bit of pressure off of Bradley Beal.
The bench needs to stay hot
With Thomas Bryant, Isaiah Thomas, Jordan McRae, and C.J. Miles all unavailable on Thursday night, the bench got thinner, but they still produced. Davis Bertans, Troy Brown Jr., and Ian Mahinmi (in his first game since last April) contributed 40 points off the bench, only six points lower than the Wizards season average of 45.9 (second in the league). Bertans has hit at least two three-pointers in his last nine games and at least four in seven of those. The surge from the bench has helped the Wizards all season long, but this thin lineup is going to have to give a repeat performance on the second night of a back-to-back if the Wizards want a win in Miami.