The Wizards got beat down by the Boston Celtics 126-107 at home on Monday. Former Wizard Kristaps Porziņģis poured in 15 points as Boston led by as many as 37. The Wizards trailed by 23 at the end of the first quarter, which is the biggest point differential at the end of a quarter this year. Clearly, there’s a considerable gap in both talent and experience between the teams. Bright spots for the Wizards including Bilal Coulibaly’s first start in DC and Eugene Omoruyi’s 4th quarter explosion were few and far between. Here’s what the team said after the blowout
“I think this is a good learning lesson for us. We may lose a ton of games this year but it can’t be like that. For us, we need to find our competitive spirit within all of this. Everyone’s talking about development and growing guys, but at the same time, it’s not about handing it to people. You need to come out and compete.” ~Kyle Kuzma
Learning lesson is one way to put it. But Kuzma’s message is correct. Losing like the Wizards did against Boston serves no purpose. They caved in as Boston took an early lead and seemed lackadaisical on defense at times. Kuz has played well this year and put up 21 points efficiently in this game. While his defensive numbers look strong, he hasn’t made up for Washington’s deficiencies on the perimeter (or at the rim when Daniel Gafford is out as he was against Boston). Kuzma is trying to be a leader and doing his job, but it’s a bit disheartening that the leader is asking for competitive spirit three games into the season.
“Sometimes, [I need to] be way more physical because they play with their shoulders and know how to create space. You just have to be ready to contest their shots and do whatever you can because sometimes they will make the shot even if you’re playing great defense. So don’t get frustrated and play as hard as you can.”~Bilal Coulibaly on what he learned guarding Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum
Coulibaly getting the start and extended minutes was the only benefit of Gafford’s absence. He struggled to find his footing early on. He went 1-of-4 in the first half for just two points. But the 19-year-old was able to hang defensively and got the rim for some fun dunks. If Coulibaly is going to fulfill Washington’s vision, he will need to learn how to shut down guys like Brown, Tatum, and Jrue Holiday. Monday was his first step towards doing that.
“After that first quarter, we saw glimpses [of the basketball we want], but particularly in the fourth. You could say, it’s the end of your bench guys for them and some of our young guys, but that doesn’t matter. They just played the right way. They played hard and played with a level of aggression. So I give them a lot of credit. You get down 37. I think we cut it to 15 and that’s not easy regardless of the score.”~Wes Unseld Jr. on if he saw the basketball the team wants
We’ve reached the “praise for the bench guys” stage of the season early in 2023. But young players like Coulibaly and Ryan Rollins (7 points/3 assists/4 steals) excelling against NBA players needs to be applauded in a rebuild. Eugene Omoruyi seems to have some promise after his 14-point outburst. Finding diamonds in the rough like Jordan Goodwin last season should pay dividends, so hopefully someone like Omoruyi will develop.