The 2-14 Wizards took on the 2-14 Pistons Monday in what many labeled “The Tank Bowl.”
Washington came out on top in the motor city, 126-107.
The Pistons came out with terrific energy, taking it to the Wizards on the interior as they opened a 10-2 lead. Wes Unseld Jr. answered with a quick timeout and some adjustments. Those changes got the Wizards back in it, tying the game at 10 and growing the lead from there. They lead the rest of the way, closing the quarter on an extended 29-17 run.
The second quarter began much different to the first, with the Wizards as the aggressors this time. Kyle Kuzma was unable to get much going, shooting a poor 2-7 from the field in the first 24 minutes, but picked up some dimes along the way. Once the starters sat for a breather, the bench unit came in and did what they’ve been doing all season: Grow the lead.
Danilo Gallinari lead all bench scorers at the half with 9 points, 6 of which came from downtown. His ability to stretch the floor pulled James Wiseman out of the paint and allowed guys like Corey Kispert and Landry Shamet to get downhill.
After a start that lacked energy, Washington pulled it together to enter the locker room on top, 57-54.
Third quarters are typically the achilles heel of this team. Whether it’s a lack of adjustments or simply shaking off the halftime rust, this team hasn’t been able to compete coming out of the break. This time out, however, was a different story. Wes Unseld Jr’s squad attacked the rim with purpose, had synergy defensively and overall just out-played Detroit in Q3.
Kyle Kuzma, who entered the break with just 7 points, more than doubled that as he lead Washington’s scoring outburst. Drives, deep threes, transition buckets...you name it. Kuzma did it all. The Wizards’ star dropped 18 points in the quarter to grow the lead to 11 entering the final frame.
Deni Avdija kicked off the 4th quarter with a bang, posting up Killian Hayes, drawing contact and finishing strong to secure the and-1 opportunity. Avdija had an efficient night offensively, going 6-9 from the field en route to 16 points.
His counterpart, Bilal Coulibaly, introduced himself to the action with an athletic steal where he leaped into the air and snatched the ball with one hand. He parlayed that swipe of the ball into a fast-break dunk, causing an uproar on the Wizards bench.
With six minutes left in a 15-point game, many would consider resting the starters. Not Wes Unseld Jr. He had apparently seen enough blown leads for the time being and wanted to take no chances at blowing another. Both Kuzma and Gafford were inserted back into the game and helped increase the lead from there.
For the first time since November 8th, the Washington Wizards won a basketball game. Yes, it was against the young and growing Pistons, but still a win nonetheless.
They take the Magic for the first of a two-game set on Wednesday in Orlando where they’ll look to build on this win.
Kuzma: 32 pts / 12 reb / 8 ast
Avdija: 16 pts / 6 reb / 5 ast
Gallinari: 16 pts / 3-6 3pt