Tough slate lies ahead for Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Next six games feature possible playoff teams

The honeymoon phase of John Wall's return to action is over. The Wizards (11-33) have lost two games in a row for the first time since Wall came back after missing 33 games to start the season, and things only stand to get more difficult.

"I just think we're not doing a great job of playing the way we've been playing," Wall told reporters after finishing with nine points, six assists and five turnovers in Wednesday's 92-84 loss at Philadelphia, ending a streak of four straight games scoring in double figures.

Washington also played without Bradley Beal against the Sixers. The rookie guard finally sat out with a sprained right wrist six games after it was injured during a hard fall at Denver on Jan. 18.

Up next
Wizards at Grizzlies
When » Friday, 8 p.m.
Where » FedEx Forum,
Memphis, Tenn.
TV » CSN

Beal was examined by a hand specialist in New York on Wednesday, and Wizards coach Randy Wittman called his status "day-to-day." But after scoring 20 or more points five times in the first half of January, Beal had six points or fewer in three of his last five games.

The Wizards play their next six games against teams that are in playoff positions, starting Friday on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies (29-15), who traded small forward Rudy Gay (17.2 points, 5.9 rebounds per game) on Wednesday to the Toronto Raptors in a deal that brought back Raptors forward Ed Davis (9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Detroit's Tayshaun Prince (11.7 ppg) and Austin Daye (5.1 ppg). Gay, a Baltimore native, had been mentioned as a desired target for the Wizards during their earlier struggles without Wall.

While the Grizzlies adjust to Gay's departure, the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs (37-11) will welcome back Tim Duncan (17.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg) when they host the Wizards on Saturday, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Duncan has missed the last four games with a sore left knee, and the Spurs will have two full days to prepare for the Wizards, whom they have beaten 13 games in a row by an average of 18.1 points.

"You want to get one of these games because we got a tough week coming up at home," said Wall, fully aware that the Wizards have three games in five nights at Verizon Center against the Los Angeles Clippers (34-13), New York Knicks (28-15) and Brooklyn Nets (27-19). The Wizards then hit the road to face Milwaukee (24-20) before hosting the Pistons (17-29) in their final contest before the All-Star break.

The Wizards never quite dignified the idea of a potential playoff run after they won seven out of 10 games, including six of nine with Wall in the lineup. It's easy to see why; they're still more than 10 games out of eighth place with 38 games remaining. Any hopes of making a historic run to the postseason could hinge on how they fare in arguably their toughest stretch remaining this year.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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