For a season that’s slipped away from the Wizards and one that will likely end in two weeks’ time, a major bright spot came Sunday in the form of Corey Kispert.
On a record-setting night for the rookie, he led the Wizards on the scoresheet and in doing so, helped open things up across the rest of the floor for the rest of the lineup in a 123-115 win over the Warriors at Capital One Arena.
“He got going early, was shooting the ball with confidence,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I know he’s had a couple of rough games and he comes in and gets extra shots. So it’s not a mystery he has a terrific game tonight. He’s not shy, he’s not afraid of the moment. I know sometimes when you miss shots, there’s a little self-doubt, you start overthinking it. But he’s got enough confidence, he’s put enough time to trust himself and he stepped up.”
Kispert finished with 25 points, which led the team in scoring, but his true standout performance came from his 6-of-9 showing from 3-point range. Even as he continued to shoot the lights out, the Warriors didn't have much of an answer for him.
In Kispert's college career at Gonzaga, he only had five nights with at least six 3-pointers made in a single game.
But along with his torrid shooting from deep, his night helped create opportunities for the rest of the offense all over the floor. As a team, the Wizards shot 16-of-28 (57.1%) from 3-point territory — their best shooting night from beyond the arc, percentage-wise, all season long.
“The game slows down immediately, you feel like every shot you take is going in and just things like that,” Kispert said. “To see the way that my shot-making early allowed other guys to score and have freedom was really good too. That was part of the reason we had such a great offensive effort against a great team. (It) did nothing but help us throughout the entire game.”
The evolution of Kispert’s rookie season likely came to a crescendo with his performance Sunday, a night in which he electrified the home crowd and helped keep the Warriors at bay throughout the night.
Notably, his 10-point second quarter on 2-of-3 shooting from deep helped the Wizards build a lead they wouldn’t give up.
“Corey, he’s a great rookie,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “He gets in the gym early, gets his shots early, he stays out late and gets shots. He’s already ready and prepared. Just seeing him have fun and knock down shots like that with no hesitation was great. Every game he gets better.”
The Wizards have just eight games left to play this season, and for a year that has featured many ups and downs, Sunday’s performance by Kispert should certainly be remembered as one of the brightest moments.
“When you get a combination of guys playing really well and us playing winning basketball, that’s the stuff that only a few teams in the NBA get to enjoy year in and year out,” Kispert said. “Being able to do that, we’re hoping we can capitalize and keep building and keep playing the right way. The wins will take care of themselves. When we play a certain brand of basketball, we have a chance of beating any team in the league.”