Saturday, June 3 2023

‘Scrappy plays’ earn undermanned Wizards grittiest win of season originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

It would’ve been understandable to temper expectations of the Washington Wizards heading into Wednesday night’s matchup vs. the Chicago Bulls. Washington was without arguably their two best players in Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, in addition to Daniel Gafford due to injuries.

But the Wizards won 100-97 thanks to some plays that couldn’t be drawn up on a chalkboard.

It was evident from tip-off that Washington had a mindset to hustle on every possession, battle for 50-50 balls and scrap for every deflection and rebound. Following the final buzzer, which went off moments after Kyle Kuzma laced a game-winning three-pointer, head coach Wes Unseld knew where the credit was due for the win.

“In the fourth quarter, there were a lot of scrappy plays, I thought we were just a little bit more energetic, played with a little bit more force on both ends and it just changed the complexion of the game,” Unseld said.

Indeed, the Wizards allowed the Bulls to score just 17 points in the fourth quarter, which continues the trend of Washington having the fifth-best defense in the league in the final frame according to

Washington also notched all three of their blocks, 15 of their 52 total rebounds, and forced two Chicago turnovers in the fourth quarter. It was one of the Wizards’ best defensive stretches of the season.

“I feel like we got every 50-50 ball [in the fourth quarter]. We got stops when we needed them and made play after play,” Unseld said. “Obviously Kuz’s shot was a heck of a shot, but to get stops when we needed them was the most important thing.”

Washington’s victory was a statement win considering who they were missing in Beal, Porzingis and Gafford. Kyle Kuzma paced the Wizards with 21 points on the night including his game-winner, but that kind of output might’ve been expected given he’s the team’s third-leading scorer. It was the dark horses who stepped up big for the home side.

Taj Gibson stepped up as the only true center left healthy with Vernon Carey Jr. also out, adding nine points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes of play. Deni Avdija was arguably the player of the game as he put up nine points and was tenacious on the boards with a career-high 20 rebounds. Anthony Gill, averaging just under 10 minutes and 3.0 points per game this season, played 23 minutes vs. Chicago and sank seven of his 11 field goal attempts for a career-high 18 points.

All told, the Wizards’ depth and hustle in the second half earned them the win. Down 13 at halftime, something Unseld Jr. drilled into his players at the break must’ve sunk in, as they looked like a completely different team in the second half.

“That was the message, you can’t get outworked. We’re already undermanned, you can’t get outworked,” Unseld said. “I thought, particularly in the second half but throughout the game, we made plays like that where we were able to come up with those types of possessions. It has nothing to do with scheme, it’s got nothing to do with where guys are. It’s a will. And I thought we made more of those plays tonight.”

Source: Yahoo Sports


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