WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the Dallas Mavericks 135-103 on Friday night at Capital One Arena. Here are five observations from what went down...
The Wizards have been building some momentum lately, and though that process began against a soft spot in their schedule, they kept it going on Friday night against one of the best teams in the league. The Dallas Mavericks came to Washington as the No. 3 seed in the West and winners of five of their last six, yet the Wizards not only won, they blasted them.
The Wizards won by 32 points, their largest differential of the season, and saw Mavs head coach Jason Kidd get ejected in the fourth quarter for arguing with the referees. Dallas had 13 turnovers, which the Wizards converted into 22 points. The Wizards, meanwhile, committed only nine turnovers.
Washington has now won four of its last five games. They were eliminated from postseason contention the night before, but are all of a sudden winning like they haven't been able to for months. This was the first time they have won four games in a five-game span since Jan. 17.
Luka vs. Porzingis
Because they were teammates in Dallas, this was the first time Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic ever played against each other in an NBA game. Both played well, particularly Doncic, who is likely en route to getting some MVP votes at the end of this season. He started the game 1-for-5, but then caught fire and ended up with 36 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He shot 11-for-22 from the field, 4-for-9 from three and 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
Porzingis, though, got the win against his former team and also put up numbers. He had 24 points and nine rebounds, also shooting well at 8-for-18 overall and 2-for-4 from deep. The Wizards are looking good in general with Porzingis leading the show. These four wins in their last five have all come with him as the No. 1 scoring option. It's a winning formula, at least for now.
Back in D.C. for the first time since they were traded, both Davis Bertans and Spencer Dinwiddie were honored with a joint tribute video after the first timeout of the first quarter. The Wizards showed highlights of the two with a message of 'thank you.' Afterward, both guys were shown on the screen and received a largely indifferent reaction from the crowd. They neither booed nor cheered.
Neither player made much of an impact in this game, either. Bertans went scoreless, only taking one shot, and Dinwiddie had eight points on 2-for-6 shooting. While Dinwiddie has played very well with the Mavs overall since being traded there, he was off in this game and had a few sloppy turnovers where he threw errant passes out of bounds. He also traveled on a drive into the lane and got a technical foul in the fourth quarter. Not the return he was hoping for.
KCP kept it rolling
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is playing some of the best basketball of his career. He had 35 points on Friday, three short of his career-high and extended his streak of scoring 20-plus points to four games, which ties his career-high and is his longest in five years. In this game, he got hot early with 12 points in the first quarter and shot 13-for-19 overall and 6-for-11 from three. He also spent time guarding Doncic on the other end.
This was Caldwell-Pope's 74th game for the Wizards this season and he's started every single one of them. If he starts in the final five games, he will get to 78 which will be far and away the most anyone has started for the Wizards this season. Kyle Kuzma is second on that list at 66. The only player who has appeared in more games for the Wizards this year is Deni Avdija, who has played in all 77.
Kuzma not shut down... yet
With the Wizards being eliminated from the playoffs, it would be understandable if their approach to Kyle Kuzma's injury changed. He's been out for eight games now with right knee tendinitis and they have nothing to play for. According to head coach Wes Unseld Jr., though, they still have no plans to shut him down. Well, at least not yet.
For the first time, Unseld Jr. did acknowledge the possibility and also mentioned Porzingis in that mix. But first, Unseld Jr. said the Wizards would like to "see more" from them as a duo, so they are hoping to have Kuzma come back to play a few games. Whether they can make that happen, we shall see. Time is running out.