WASHINGTON -- Tuesday night's win over the Pistons was by every measure the best game of Johnny Davis' young NBA career. He scored a career-high 11 points (his previous high was three) while adding five rebounds and a strong defensive effort.
Davis believes it was the continuation of his turning a corner while playing for the Capital City Go-Go in the G-League. He returned from the All-Star break to score 19 points on Feb. 23 against the Grand Rapids Gold. He then carried that over to have his two best games in the G League earlier this month, scoring 25 points against the Delaware Blue Coats and 23 against the Mexico City Capitanes.
Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. was sent some video clips of Davis' recent play and he liked what he saw. He offered Davis, 21, some rare early game minutes by bringing him off the bench with about three minutes left in the first quarter on Tuesday.
"There's only one way to see him. You've gotta play him... There's been steady improvement all season, so he's earned those minutes. He made the most of them," Unseld Jr. said.
Davis made four of his first five shots to drop eight points in the first half. That was highlighted by possibly his best play in the NBA yet. Davis took the ball coast-to-cast off a defensive rebound to score a fastbreak layup.
That was the type of aggressive, two-way impact that made Davis the Big Ten Player of the Year last season at Wisconsin. He was the 10th overall draft pick but has so far been slow to develop, spending most of his time this season in the G League. Davis has played in 15 games for the Wizards this season compared to
Davis hopes this game was a breakthrough with 13 games left on the Wizards' regular season schedule.
"I thought it meant that it was just the start of me hopefully getting more minutes and having a spot in the rotation with the Wizards. I think it just showed how much I've been working and how much I've developed this season," Davis said.
Davis gave credit to a few people after his 11-point outing against the Pistons. He shouted out Go-Go coach Mike Williams for helping him transition to the professional ranks. He also said Anthony Gill helped him with a pep talk before the game about how he should just go out and play freely, not worrying about making mistakes.
That mindset seemed to help him. Unseld Jr. thought Davis did a nice job of not turning down the types of shots he wouldn't have taken earlier in the season.
"He was aggressive and he didn't look out of place. I think earlier in the year at times he was a little tentative. He fit right in, got right in there," Unseld Jr. said.
One good game may not immediately open the door for Davis. He was able to earn some more minutes in part because Kyle Kuzma was out with right knee soreness. Kuzma's injury is not expected to keep him out long. But it seemed to clearly represent a step in the right direction, the type of game that at a minimum can help his confidence moving forward.