It’s been a rough first half in many ways for the Washington Wizards, but they should be gaining confidence in what they’ll be able to accomplish once they’re healthy.
When that finally happens is anyone’s guess.
Bradley Beal may be back out of action along with two other starters for Friday night’s visit to Indiana, where John Wall is hoping whoever’s left around him can help deliver some payback to the Pacers.
Beal returned Wednesday after missing more than a month with a stress reaction in his lower right leg, scoring 11 points in 23 minutes off the bench as the Wizards rallied to beat Milwaukee 106-101 and push their winning streak to three.
"I just took my time with this injury," said Beal, who missed eight games with a similar injury last season. "I definitely wanted to make sure I was 100 percent before I got back out here."
But Washington (18-19), which has missed the most games to injury in the NBA, is far from out of the woods.
Beal is likely to be on a minutes restriction and says it’s doubtful he plays both Friday in Indiana and Saturday against Boston. Wall was set to have an MRI Thursday to ensure there’s nothing wrong with his sore left knee. Marcin Gortat missed a second straight game with an infection in his left knee, and Otto Porter left Wednesday’s win with a sore right hip.
Those two are day to day while Kris Humphries (knee) and Alan Anderson (ankle) remain out.
Whoever suits up should be heavily invested in making sure Indiana (22-17) has a more difficult time shooting from long range. The Pacers made a franchise-record 19 3-pointers on just 26 attempts when winning 123-106 in Washington on Nov. 24, with Paul George hitting seven among his 40 points and C.J. Miles going 8 of 9 while scoring 32.
"We feel like we owe Indiana," Wall said. "They came in and shot the glove off the basketball when they were here last time. We’ve got to defend and get to their 3-point shooters and move the ball offensively, and I think we’ll be fine."
The Wizards were relatively healthy for that one, and given the current injury uncertainty, they’ll likely need another big effort from Nene. The Brazilian, who has missed 21 games to injury, totaled 26 points and played some solid defense in the last two games while starting in Gortat’s place.
Washington is outscoring opponents by 8.2 points per 100 possessions when Nene is on the floor — easily the best on the team — and being outscored by 4.1 when he’s off.
"Nene’s huge for us," forward Jared Dudley said. "I don’t even know if he realizes how big he is for this team. He’s probably our best low-post scorer. He can pass the ball. He’s a physical presence defensively. … It seems like when he’s in there, teams go for less offensive rebounds. Whatever we can do to keep him healthy, we’ll do what we’ve gotta do."
The Pacers aren’t exactly feeling 100 percent, either. Rodney Stuckey (foot) is out for at least two weeks, and coach Frank Vogel said after Wednesday’s 103-94 loss at Boston that George was feeling fatigued after missing most of last season with a leg injury.
"He’s reported that to me, that his legs feel a little heavy," Vogel said of George, who is shooting 36.7 percent over his last 13 games. "But everybody in the league goes through that. I don’t think it’s a big deal because of his injury, but that could be a factor."
Miles hasn’t been much better in January, shooting 32.9 percent.