Wizards vs. Cavaliers (8pm ET Friday, ESPN)
Just three weeks ago, one might have reasonably left the Wizards for dead on the side of I-95 as they were five games under .500 and in 10th place in the East. But they’ve gone 7-2 since then, most recently defeating the Timberwolves on Wednesday, 104-98. It was a huge night for the Wizards’ bench, as they outscored the starters 64-40, led by Bradley Beal’s 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting. The Wizards are 30-30, and tied for ninth in the East, just a half-game out of the playoff picture.
Cleveland is officially drifting into hot mess territory. They’ve lost three of their last five, including a 113-99 loss to the Wizards on Sunday, their lead over Toronto for the top spot in the East is down to two games. Lebron James is spending off days working out in Miami with Dwyane Wade, rumors are flying that Kyrie Irving is unhappy. On Monday, the Cavs beat the Pacers 100-96, as James scored 33 points and Tristan Thompson came off the bench to contribute 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Cavs are 42-17 and have had sole possession of first in the East since the second week of November, so why is there such a stink surrounding this team?
Hawks vs. Lakers (10:30pm ET Friday, ESPN)
The Hawks have stumbled badly since a January 20 victory over Portland, losing 11 of 18, most recently falling 109-105 to the Warriors, on a night when Golden State was without Devourer of Worlds Steph Curry and reigning Finals MVP Andre Iguodola. The Hawks fought back from an 11-point halftime deficit to push the game to OT, but made only two of six in the extra frame. Paul Millsap in particularly has struggled during this recent slide, shooting just .381 over the last nine games, well off his .489 season average. At 33-28, The Hawks are still in the thick of the playoff hunt at fifth in the East.
The Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour made its final stop in Denver Wednesday. The Lakers lost 117-107 on a night when a sore shoulder limited Bryant to five points on one-of-two shooting in just 10 minutes. D’Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 24 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough to counter the Nuggets D.J. Augustin, who came of the bench to score 26 points on seven-of-11 shooting in just 23 minutes. The loss was the Lakers ninth in their last 10 games and dropped them to 12-50, the worst record in the West, but still three-and-a-half games ahead of the Sixers. Kobe is questionable for tonight as are Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.