WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards could not slow down Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road last week. Five days later, they are tasked with trying again but this time likely without All-Star guard John Wall.
The Wizards (27-22) are expected to play their second consecutive game without Wall, who is dealing with left knee soreness. Named to his fifth All-Star team last week, Wall had an MRI on Monday. He was scheduled to meet later in the day with the surgeons in Cleveland who performed procedures on both of his knees in 2016.
Washington’s second-leading scorer has missed 12 games this season, including a stretch of nine in a row after receiving injections in the injured knee. Wall had 21 points and 12 assists in Thursday’s 121-112 loss at Oklahoma City (30-20) but sat out Saturday’s 129-104 rout at Atlanta.
“It’s a concern, but we have to trust that the doctors and everybody is going to have the best game plan for him going forward and it’s always about him going forward, not about us going forward,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said Monday via The Washington Post.
“We want to make sure, not only with John but with all our guys that their career is most important. But right now I don’t know how concerned, but we’re definitely concerned that it is bothering him from time to time.”
Westbrook caused Washington all kinds of problems in the first meeting. While Bradley Beal had 41 points for the Wizards, Westbrook topped his fellow All-Star with 46 points. Since then, Oklahoma City extended its current winning streak to a league-best eight games by defeating Detroit and Philadelphia.
In the Thunder’s first game without defensive force Andre Roberson, Westbrook finished with 37 points and 14 assists in Sunday’s 122-112 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Roberson suffered a season-ending ruptured patella tendon against the Pistons. His absence puts a bigger focus on the two-way play of forward Paul George, who had 31 points Sunday.
“The thing about him, he’s one of those guys, he’s silent in his stats,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of George to The Oklahoman. “The way he scores, the way he plays, it’s not very loud, but the way he plays the game, he was awesome on both ends of the floor tonight.”
George added four assists and four steals against the 76ers, numbers he also put up against the Wizards along with 18 points.
“I surprise myself sometimes, just looking in the box score and ‘Wow, that’s what I did tonight.’ Whatever it is, I let the game dictate how I play the game,” George said after Sunday’s win. “I just try to get lost in it, get lost within that rectangle out there and just do whatever’s possible to win.”
The Wizards used a caring-is-sharing approach to beat the Hawks after losing three of four games. Despite the absence of Wall, who is second in the NBA in assists, Washington had 40 assists on 49 field goals.
Tomas Satoransky (11 points, seven assists) replaced Wall in the starting lineup and Tim Frazier (14 assists) shined off the bench.
“That was an opportunity for them,” Wizards center Marcin Gortat said. “John has some health issues, and that’s why he was resting (Saturday). That’s an opportunity for somebody to step in.
“Tim just took that challenge. He used that opportunity. It was an unbelievable game from him. … Tomas is Tomas — we know what he can do. He’s shooting the ball very well now, and we’re excited. It’s a lot of fun to play with Tomas. He’s looking for you and he’s trying to get you the ball.”