The Washington Wizards are still first in the NBA’s Eastern Conference after a 97-94 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Coming into tonight, the bad news for the Wizards was that the Cavaliers were on a four-game winning streak. The good news for the Wizards: The Cavaliers were short-handed with key players either sidelined due injury or NBA COVID-19 protocols.
Another piece of good news: Ricky Rubio isn’t the kind of player to drop 37 points two nights in a row.
As they sometimes do, the Wizards complicated things with another off night for Bradley Beal. After the game, Beal revealed that he wasn’t in the game mentally in part due to the death of his grandmother.
Beal: lost his grandma yesterday. He says he wasn’t in it and credits his teammates for the win. #WizCavs— Albert Lee (@aleeinthedmv) November 11, 2021
Exceptional performances from Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma lifted the Wizards (at least temporarily) to first place in the East with an 8-3 record. The story tonight was an improbable late-game come-back overcome an 89-93 deficit with less than 30 seconds in regulation.
With the Wizards down 91-89, the Cavs went to Darius Garland out of a time-out for a nice iso play, which ended in a made mid-range shot and a 89-93 deficit. At this point Unseld called an after timeout play that freed Kuzma for a right-side three after Beal attracted the defense’s attention on the left side:
On the next play, Beal fouled Ricky Rubio who split a pair of free throws to keep the Wizards alive.
Head Coach Wes Unseld, Jr. took another timeout and once again gave the ball to Beal, who now drew a double team as Kuzma waited patiently in the left corner. Beal made the well-timed pass and Kuzma nailed his second three in 15 seconds to put the Wizards on top 95-94.
KYLE KUZMA FOR THE LEAD!!#DCAboveAll | @kylekuzma pic.twitter.com/GQycMGLt0i— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) November 11, 2021
A Cavs turnover should have then ended the game, but Kispert made a rookie mistake and went for a layup. That gave Cleveland 0.7 seconds to inbound the ball and get a shot. The possession came to nothing, however.
Coming into tonight, various posts have discussed how great the Wizards are as compared to pre-season expectations. Tonight, they matched-up against another early season over-achiever. The Cavaliers entered the game 7-4 and in 5th place in the East. This wasn’t going to be an easy match-up, yet the Wizards showed once again that this year they are made up of a different mold.
Once again, the Wizards’ defense worked well, keeping their opponent to just 94 points, and limiting their opponent to just 9-31 shooting from three-point range. The Wizards were also perfect from the line going 17-of-17, with Harrell 8-for-8 in what proved to be one of the winning factors.
Finally, in a night when Beal went 4-for-19 from the field, the team’s depth proved valuable once again. Kuzma and Harrell had their best joint game of the season as they combined for 46 points. Kuzma went ballistic for 6-of-9 from deep, including two clutch threes with less than 30 seconds in regulation to secure the win.