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What the Wizards said after blowing out the Suns

After Washington won their third straight game, players and coaches had high praise for Rui Hachimura, Daniel Gafford, and Delon Wright.

Phoenix Suns v Washington Wizards Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

How about a winning streak for the Washington Wizards?! Make that three in a row for DC after they handled the Devin Booker-less Phoenix Suns to win 127-102 without Bradley Beal. Sorry that this post is coming out a few hours before their road game against the Orlando Magic, but we’ll blame Albert for that!

Obviously, Beal’s health is paramount. But there’s no update on his condition as the team heads for a 4-game road trip next week. The good news is that the Wizards put together one of their most complete performances this season against the Suns. Multiple players stepped up with Rui Hachimura’s career-high 30 points as the highlight. Here’s some of what the team said after the game.

Head Coach Wes Unseld Jr.

On Delon Wright: “He makes the most of his minutes and impacts the game right away with his defensive ability, size, and athleticism. He’s got just great feel and timing. He just comes away with deflections, finds a way to get to those loose balls, and those are momentum plays. He single-handedly in my opinion changed that stretch, which pushed the distance for us.”

Why it matters: After missing 29 games earlier this year, Wright is making a huge impact for the Wizards now. That might seem hyperbolic given that he only played 15 minutes and scored just three points. But the traditional box score will rarely do a player like Wright justice. He corralled three steals, deflected the ball seven times, and Phoenix players went 4 of 12 from the field when he guarded them. Two of those steals came late in the third quarter after the Suns had cut a 19-point lead down to 2, which kickstarted Washington’s 34-18 run in the fourth quarter. Wright is tied with Paul George for the most deflections per game despite playing far fewer minutes per game. Hopefully, Wright’s minutes increase as he gets healthier because DC hasn’t had a defensive sparkplug like this in while.

On a successful challenge of a foul called on Rui Hachimura: “I’m usually more hesitant to use it until late in the game, but I felt like that was a momentum stretch there. I trust my guys. We got one guy who’s always on the computer, he gets a quick look at it. I really have no idea outside of just seeing it in live action and if I if I’m pretty certain I’ll just call it. If I’m not certain, I look and turn [to the bench]. I trusted that they had an opportunity to look at it and if he says challenge, I challenge.”

Why it matters: I thought it was cool to hear about what goes into a challenge call. Also this was a huge moment in the game and an excellent decision to challenge. With 1:56 left in the third quarter, Hachimura was called for a charge after hitting a layup over Ish Wainwright, whose foot was in the restricted area. Instead of the Suns having a chance to take the lead, the challenge and ensuing free throw put the Wizards up by four. Hachimura poured in 17 of his career-high 30 points and Washington outscored Phoenix by 24 points from that moment on.

On Daniel Gafford: “His energy was great. For a second night of a back to back to come out and play another guy [Deandre Ayton] that you have the bang with. I thought he showed his athleticism protecting the rim, blocking shots, gave us life with those second chance opportunities. That’s how it has to be . . . He can impact [the game] without running a single play for him . . . With that style of play, his activity, and playing to his physical gifts, he can impact winning.”

Why it matters: It may seem odd to praise Gafford so much after back-to-back nights where his matchup scored 30+ points. But he has played some of his best basketball this season in the last two games. As Kevin Broom pointed out in his stats recap, Washington dominated the glass. Gafford played a huge role in that with eight total rebounds and four on the offensive glass. He also had some boisterous blocks to set the tone defensively. The Wizards will not face another dominant center for a while. It’ll be interesting to see if he thrives in those matchups or struggles to find his role over the next few weeks.

Kristaps Porzingis

On whether switching between power forward and center messes with his flow: “A little bit. I try to adjust as quickly as I can, of course. But, obviously as the five, the ball goes through me a bit more than when I’m at the four. [I’m] a bit more on the perimeter just looking for some cuts looking for some opportunities. But I’m comfortable playing both. . . I really like playing with Gaf. [He’s] just a huge presence down there, blocking shots, getting rebounds, and being a lob threat. It opens shots up for guys.”

Why it matters: As mentioned yesterday, Coach Unseld Jr. is sticking with the two-big starting lineup. He reiterated that he wants at least a five-game sample size to see how his team reacts to it. Washington has won the last three games with Porzingis and Gafford starting despite some growing pains. More importantly, the setup maximizes both players’ strengths. Gafford gets to flex his muscles down low and Porzingis gets more easy buckets without the pain of playing in the post.

Kyle Kuzma

On playing together with Rui Hachimura: “I feel like I can play with anybody. I just understand [that] he’s a scorer. . . I know if I’m passing to him, he ain’t passing it and he’s gonna shoot the ball. So, just putting him in positions to where he can make mismatches. If the best perimeter defender guards me, then he’s gonna have somebody that’s not as good and he can get into post and he can use his strength. Tonight was a really good game for him, not just because he had [30], but just the way he played.”

Why it matters: The Kuzma-Hachimura combo never really got off the ground this year due to Hachimura’s injuries. With Porzingis playing more at the four, this tandem may see even fewer minutes together in the immediate future. But the pairing has a 2.6 net rating in 269 minutes together and played off each other well against the Suns on Wednesday. 4 of Kuzma’s 7 assists led to Hachimura baskets. Some folks may take the quip about knowing that Hachimura will shoot rather than pass as a slight. But Kuzma knows that Hachimura will capitalize on the advantages Kuzma creates, which probably makes him more confident in his own offense.