The Wizards have only won two games in the last 19 days and in each of them 7-foot-3 big man Kristaps Porzingis essentially took over in the fourth quarter on the offensive end. Against the Lakers last Saturday, he dropped 16 points in the fourth and on Friday against the Pistons he had 11.
The Wizards especially needed it in Detroit, as their offense stalled in the second half. Porzingis' 11 points in the fourth were more than what the rest of the team scored in the quarter (10) and he hit four of their seven made shots.
Porzingis is their best and most accomplished player at the moment with Bradley Beal out for the season with a wrist injury and Kyle Kuzma currently sitting out due to right knee tendinitis. On Friday, he delivered to help save the Wizards from a near collapse, as Detroit came back from down 17 points to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
"Big players make big plays. He was good down the stretch and hopefully he can keep doing so," Deni Avdija said.
Porzingis' most timely bucket came with 29.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, a fadeaway that put the Wizards up by one point following a go-ahead shot on the other end by Cade Cunningham. The Wizards then got a stop and Avdija made two free throws to seal the win.
It was much-needed for the Wizards, who had lost eight of nine games going in and trailed by 28 points the night before in their loss to the Bucks.
"I enjoy those clutch moments, those last possessions," Porzingis said. "There's more on the line. I think every basketball player enjoys those shots more."
Porzingis closed out the game despite rolling his ankle badly in the fourth quarter. He said he heard a crack and stayed down on the ground as the Wizards ran back on defense. Porzingis, though, was able to shake it off, stay in the game and soon after jumped off the same foot for an alley-oop slam.
He credited the scoring surge to taking advantage of mismatches, as he was four inches taller than any player on the Pistons' roster. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. is enjoying having a player who presents that type of edge basically every night.
"He's kind of a steadying presence. You can play through him. With his size and stature, you know he can get a shot off. Get him to a spot and let him do his thing. He made some big plays late," Unseld Jr. said.
Porzingis had a big night overall in Detroit with 30 points, the most he's scored in 10 games with the Wizards, plus 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. He was also efficient, hitting 11-of-22 from the field, 3-for-7 from three and 5-for-7 from the free throw line.
The fact he can create his own offense and score in bunches is an encouraging sign for the Wizards' future. For instance, his 16 points in the fourth quarter against the Lakers were the most any Wizards player has scored in a fourth quarter this season. In the past two years, Beal and Russell Westbrook are the only two other Wizards to do that.
Kuzma can also get hot for extended stretches and in clutch moments, as he's demonstrated numerous times this season. If Beal re-signs this summer, the Wizards could have three players capable of taking over to varying degrees.
Having a quantity of players who can do that could come in handy, as it's hard for anyone to close games on a consistent basis by themselves. Porzingis, for instance, shot 0-for-5 in the fourth quarter on Monday when the Wizards blew a 23-point lead against the Rockets. He didn't have it that night.
But he did have it on Friday and in the future, between him, Beal and Kuzma, the Wizards may be able to get someone to break through more often than not.