The Washington Wizards beat the Knicks 124-117 in New York on Thursday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
Two in a row
With an unexpected break of four days between games due to their Tuesday meeting against the Nets being postponed, the Wizards used the time to rest up and reset, hoping to build some positive momentum after a tough several weeks. They did just that with a big road win over the Knicks on Thursday night.
After losing four straight games, the Wizards have now won two in a row for the first time in close to a month. They won this particular game without starters Bradley Beal and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
It was a collective effort for much of the night, though Kyle Kuzma once again came through in the clutch. He hit two threes in the final two minutes to help seal the win after going 0-for-5 from three to begin the game.
Washington moved to 17-15 on the year with a home game against the struggling Sixers up next on Sunday, the day after Christmas.
Beal was out
Beal entered health and safety protocol in the afternoon, about four hours before tip-off. It is unclear if he received a positive test or whether it was a matter of contract tracing, but that left the Wizards missing two starters, as Caldwell-Pope was already in protocols after testing positive.
The Wizards have shown remarkable resolve when Beal is out this season. They stayed perfect, moving to 4-0 in games he doesn't play. The Wizards haven't exactly beaten the best teams when he's been out, but credit to them for stepping and finding a way to adjust.
Kispert's first start
With Beal and Caldwell-Pope out, the Wizards made an expected move by promoting Aaron Holiday to the starting lineup and an unexpected one by giving rookie Corey Kispert his first NBA start. Kispert happened to get that honor at Madison Square Garden, ensuring he will never forget the experience.
Kispert rose to the occasion with an excellent game. He made his first four shots and had 11 points by halftime. For the game, he finished with a career-high 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting and 4-for-5 from three. Kispert also did a nice job of keeping the ball moving with quick swing passes and cuts through the lane. He can help the Wizards' offense in a few different ways.
Kemba went off
Just like the Wizards, the Knicks were dealing with several players missing, some due to protocols but also Derrick Rose due to injury. Kemba Walker just recently returned to their rotation and on Thursday had his third straight game with 20-plus points.
He got there against the Wizards in one quarter. Walker had 28 points in the first half, including 23 in the second quarter alone. He made four threes in the frame. It got so far out of hand, the Wizards switched Deni Avdija onto him. Avdija has been their best on-ball defender this season, but isn't usually assigned to guards of Walker's size. They just needed to try something.
Walker had 41 points by the end of the third quarter, which were more than anyone else had scored against the Wizards this season. He would end up with 44 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. He's still got it.
Sharing the ball
With their top scorer in Beal out, the Wizards clearly made an effort to move the ball and get many players involved in an equal opportunity offense. That strategy worked to a T, as the Wizards shot 56.0%, recorded 30 assists and saw seven different players reach double figures. The assists number was their highest in a game since Dec. 1.
Spencer Dinwiddie (21 points, 12 assists) and Avdija (14 points) were among those who scored in double figures. For Dinwiddie, it was his most points since Nov. 15 and more than he scored in his last three games combined (13). For Avdija, it was his fourth straight game in double figures, extending the longest streak of his career. The Wizards shot 16-for-37 (43.2%) from three in a rare hot shooting night for Washington. It was their second-most threes in a game this season and their most since Oct. 22.