Eight games ago, Kelly Oubre had a fast track to coach Scott Brooks' doghouse. Or so it seemed during the Wizards' 112-100 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Oubre was yanked after three minutes, missing his only shot and getting beaten backdoor by Pau Gasol for a layup.
Fast forward to Saturday night when for the second game in a row Oubre was on the court at the end of a close game and finishing a win for the Wizards, scoring a career-high 19 points to go with nine rebounds and three steals.
"I thought Kelly was outstanding on both sides of the ball. The game basically tells you what to do," Brooks said after a 110-105 come-from-behind win in which Oubre had a steal in a dunk for a three-point lead with 2:43 left. "The defense that he has played, it rewards him. He had a lot of good looks because of the defense that he played. It gives you energy. He rebounded the ball in that first half well. We needed those rebounds. When he rebounds and defends, the scoring is going to come. He's on a nice run right now."
Oubre was 3-for-3 shooting for seven points in the fourth quarter of a game they trailed 98-92 with 5:21 left. Then he hit a three-pointer. But just as importantly, the Wizards (9-13) put together six consecutive stops on the defensive end with Oubre playing at small forward next to Otto Porter as the "stretch" power forward.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was a matchup nightmare for Porter, but Oubre entered to help shoulder the responsibility of guarding him and proved disruptive of the 6-10 combo guard/forward.
"That was my prerogative tonight to take that matchup with Giannis pretty seriously," Oubre said.
Antetokounmpo had a game-high seven turnovers. The Wizards doubled him more late to kill the offensive flow for Milwaukee. He was the only starter among their five to score in the final 12 minutes.
Oubre finished 7-for-11 shooting, including 3-for-6 from three-point range. When he's on the floor with the starters, he's going to get spot-up looks because of heavy attention paid to John Wall and Bradley Beal. But Oubre also has had better decision-making. Earlier in the season, he'd try to run all the way to the rim and go over bigs to finish with little results. Now he's stopping a dribble short for the pocket jumper. He had a 12-foot pull-up to cut the deficit to 92-88.
"I've worked with a lot of young players in the past. It happens that way," Brooks said. "You don't see much for a couple of weeks, maybe even a month and all of a sudden there's a jump. We're experiencing that jump I would say the last six or seven games. He's had some really quality minutes."
Oubre had eight points, five rebounds and two steals as the Wizards locked down the Denver Nuggets to pull out that win late Wednesday. He also finished the game on the floor with Markieff Morris on the bench so Brooks can use Porter as a better option to spread the floor.
Oubre had his first (and still only) double-double after that disappointment vs. the Spurs in the next game, a win over the Sacramento Kings, with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He had 12 points and six rebounds in a close loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He had 10 points and five rebounds in a comeback win at the Brooklyn Nets.
The second unit has struggled for most of the season, but it has prospered in conjunction with Oubre. Trey Burke (five points, two assists) has showed signs of life as the backup point guard in the first half and Jason Smith (four points) dropped in to consecutive buckets on his only shots early in the fourth quarter to keep the score even.
Oubre's three made three-point shots set a career-high as well.
"Wow, I didn't even know that," Oubre said when told of his mark. "Going for four next game."
That's Monday at the Miami Heat.