The Washington Wizards nearly completed a monumental comeback against the Indiana Pacers in their NBA Summer League debut, but fell just short in a 91-83 defeat.
The first half of play was about brutal as you can imagine for the Wizards. Washington trailed the Pacers 51-29, shooting a horrific 27.9% from the field in an offense that looked downright anemic.
It took them nearly six minutes to score their first field goal in the second quarter. The team also failed to make a single three-pointer, missing all five of their attempts from distance.
New acquisition Ryan Rollins had 8 points and 4 assists at halftime while second-year man Johnny Davis tallied 6 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Prized Wizards 2023 lottery pick Bilal Coulibaly had a ho-hum stat line of 3 points and 2 rebounds on 1-of-4 shooting at the break. More on him later.
The Wizards flipped the script in the third quarter. They outscored the Pacers 31-13, including a 30-7 run with a completely rejuvenated offense. Xavier Cooks was a bundle of energy all game and showed that in quarter number three, tallying 7 points and 5 rebounds within those 10 minutes alone.
The NBA Summer League is all about flashes of potential. I said it last season when I wrote extensively about Johnny Davis. Coulibaly did not have a good game based on the box score, but the flashes he showed left me encouraged.
Coulibaly showed fluidity and quickness with the ball in his hands that doesn’t really project from watching the Mets 92 highlights we’ve all seen. His handle is far from secure enough to initiate the offense at this point, but he seems more comfortable out there than I expected.
The Frenchman also showed no fear on both ends. That was evident when he attacked Isaiah Jackson, an elite shot-blocker, off the bounce to draw a foul at the rim early in the second half.
Then there was this block on high-flying Kendall Brown late in Q3.
Coulibaly also scored back-to-back buckets in the fourth quarter, bodying the burly Ben Mathurin on one of them to finish at the rim.
Bilal Coulibaly attacking down-hill, goes right at Mathurin, takes the contact and finishes.— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) July 9, 2023
Impressive confidence here pic.twitter.com/ZB1ZRYIdEl
Call me an optimist, but I was really encouraged by what I saw from the Coulibaly’s 9-point, 4-rebound outing.
Johnny Davis impressed as well in the second half. He turned a rough first two quarters into a solid shooting night, leading the Wizards with 17 points on 8-of-18 shooting to go along with 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. It’s clear that he’s lightyears ahead of where he was last season, particularly with his confidence.
Patrick Baldwin Jr. also had his moments. The former Warriors first-round pick hit a couple of triples to finish with 13 points and 3 blocks.
The Wizards play again tomorrow with a 7:30 showdown against the Boston Celtics.