Streaking Wizards roll into matchup with slumping Thunder

NBA Basketball

There wasn’t much Washington Wizards guard Ish Smith could do basketball-wise during his nearly two months out with a quadriceps injury other than shooting from a chair.

Heading into Monday’s home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, that chair work is paying off for Smith — and the Wizards — in a big way.

Washington has won four consecutive games and six of seven to move to the brink of a spot in the play-in games with less than a month remaining in the regular season.

“It’s crazy,” Smith said. “It’s a blessing in disguise. It truly was a blessing.”

Before Smith was injured Feb. 12, the veteran was shooting 37.9% from the floor and 25% from behind the 3-point line.

Smith hadn’t felt good about his 3-point shooting form since arriving in Washington before last season.

“Let’s call a spade a spade, it was a little janky,” Smith said of his 3-point shooting. “Broke some stuff down and wanted to make it a little more smoother, easier. So shooting in the chair helped a lot.

“I think now it’s just become a little more fluid, a little easier.”

In nine games since returning from his injury, Smith is shooting 55% from the floor and is 6 of 8 (75% from beyond the arc).

While he’s not taking many threes, the ones he has taken have been effective.

“The work we put in has come to fruition,” Smith said.

While Smith has given the Wizards a lift off the bench recently, Washington could be without a pair of starters Monday.

Rui Hachimura is listed as out for the game after leaving Saturday’s win over Detroit with left knee soreness. Alex Len is listed as questionable with left ankle soreness after leaving that game early as well.

Washington’s last three wins have come over teams with a combined winning percentage below 38%. The Wizards next five games also come against teams with a sub-.500 record.

Two of those come against the Thunder.

Monday’s game is the first of two meetings between the teams this season — both this week.

The Wizards visit Oklahoma City on Friday.

The last time the Thunder had a 10-game losing streak, current Wizards coach Scott Brooks got his first head coaching opportunity.

Oklahoma City lost the first four games after Brooks replaced P.J. Carlesimo early in the 2008-09 season, extending its losing streak to 14 before Brooks picked up his first win as head coach and started a seven-season run with the Thunder before taking over the Wizards in 2016.

While the Thunder have struggled recently, Luguentz Dort has been a bright spot.

In his last three games, Dort has averaged more than 32 points per game, including a 29-point performance in Sunday’s road loss to Toronto in which Dort scored 21 in the first quarter.

“These aren’t accidental games he’s having,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “He’s gotten a lot better. We now know what he’s capable of and can feature that a little bit more.”

–Field Level Media

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